Cakes & Bakes: Simnel cupcakes

Home-made Simnel cupcakes | H is for Home

Each Easter I like to make a dish that’s traditional for the celebration. Last year, I made a hot cross loaf; the year before that, a crescia and this year I’ve made simnel cupcakes.

Circles of home-made marzipan and tins with simnel cupcake mixture | H is for Home

A simnel cake is a fruit cake with a middle layer of marzipan and another layer on the top. Since Victorian times, the cake has been decorated with 11 or 12 little balls of marzipan. It was traditionally eaten on the middle Sunday of Lent – the 12 balls representing Christ and his 11 apostles (minus the 12th, Judas).

Simnel cupcakes baked in food tins | H is for Home Tops sliced off of simnel cupcakes | H is for Home

I have a confession to make, I’d never actually eaten a simnel cake until I made these. What have I been waiting for? They’re easy to make from scratch and are delicious! The idea of cooking them in used food tins is ingenious. A word of caution, however, try not to use ring-pull tins. They have a lip at the top that makes it difficult to ease the cake out after baking. I had to open the other end of the tin to get them out!

Home-made simnel cupcakes | H is for Home

Even though I used small tins (150g Morrison’s own brand sweetcorn… around the size of small Heinz baked beans ones), we shared half a cake each.

Click here or on the image below to pin the recipe for later!

Home-made simnel cupcakes recipe | H is for Home

Simnel cupcakes
Yields 4
For the marzipan
  1. 150g/5oz ground almonds
  2. 200g/7oz icing sugar + extra for rolling
  3. 2tsp almond extract
  4. 1 egg white
For the cake mixture
  1. 115g/4oz butter, softened
  2. 115g/4oz caster sugar
  3. 2 eggs
  4. 125g/4½oz self-raising flour
  5. 300g/10½oz mixed dried fruit ( any of currants, raisins, sultanas, mixed peel, glacé cherries)
  6. 1tsp mixed spice (I didn't have any, so I made my own mixture)
  7. 4tbsp apricot jam (I used some home-made plum jam)
  8. cocoa powder, for dustingHome-made simnel cupcakes ingredients
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For the marzipan
  1. Put the ground almonds, icing sugar, almond extract and egg white into a food processor and combine until a thick ball of dough is formed
  2. Turn the paste out onto a work surface and knead it a few times. Roll it into a log and wrap in cling film until the cake mixture has been made
  3. Any unused marzipan will keep for a month in the fridge or 6 months in the freezer
For the cake
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 150ºC/300ºF/Gas mark 2. Line the base and sides of each tin with baking parchment
  2. Beat the butter and sugar together until creamy
  3. Add one of the eggs and combine until well mixed. Add the other egg with 1 tbsp of flour and mix again
  4. Stir in the rest of the four and all of the dried fruit
  5. Liberally sprinkle some icing sugar on a work surface and roll out the marzipan. Cut out 8 circles about ½cm thick and the same diameter as the tins
  6. Divide half the cake mixture between the tins and level the tops. Put a marzipan rounds on top of each and cover with the rest of the cake mixture
  7. Bake for an hour or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes away clean
  8. Allow the cakes to cool in their for 15 minutes before remove them to cool completely on a wire rack
  9. Trim the top of each cake with a sharp knife to make them flat
  10. Heat the jam and brush on the top of each cakes before cover each with the remaining marzipan rounds
  11. Make 36 mini balls with the remaining marzipan. Put 9 balls around the edge of each cake, using a little brush of jam to stick them in place
  12. Lightly sprinkle with cocoa powder
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H is for Home Harbinger http://hisforhomeblog.com/

Price Points: Luxury, ethical Easter eggs

Luxury, ethical Easter eggs | H is for Home

It’s Easter in a couple of weeks and this year, Justin’s birthday falls during the bank holiday weekend. I’ve already got him a present however, I’m thinking about getting him an additional one. One of these luxury, ethical Easter eggs will be just the ticket!

  1. Booja Booja large almond & sea salt caramel Easter egg – 138g: £26, Ethical Superstore
    These wonderfully presented handmade Easter egg gifts are created by artisans in Kashmir, India using papier-mâché and hand painted with truly unique designs before being hand packed in Norfolk with Booja Booja’s melt in the mouth superior quality and award winning, dark chocolate, almond and sea salt caramel truffles. A truly beautiful and ethical Easter egg gift for the vegan in your life.

    Booja Booja is a UK company with a refreshingly different mindset to its competitors; it strives to be minimal, renewable and of course beautiful! All of Booja Booja’s products are organic; free of dairy, wheat and gluten, are suitable for vegans and vegetarians, and are GMO free.

  2. Dark chocolate Easter egg with chocaviar 75%: £50, Venchi
    Dark chocolate Easter egg coated with delicious 75% Chocaviar pearls with an elegant jewel gift inside.

    To uphold ethics, Venchi buys its raw materials directly from the local community, guaranteeing a fair price that not only ensures the community a stable present and future, but also encourages research and development of the best extra fine cocoa varieties.

  3. Ostrich egg – dark: £75, Hotel Chocolat
    Dark ostrich egg is made with half 70% dark chocolate with almonds and a dash of salt, and half 70% dark chocolate with hazelnuts and another sprinkling of salt. Served with a tray of 27 chocolates – pralines, truffles, caramels, patisserie and more – plus six golden eggs hidden inside the box for you to hunt, all in all this comes to more than a kilo of chocolate!

    Engaged Ethics is the name we coined for our direct programme to create sustainable cocoa growing communities. It differs from most other ‘trading fairly’ programmes as it goes beyond simply writing out a cheque and standing back (which is still a great deal better than doing nothing!) It’s a roll-up-the-sleeves, take risks, long-term approach, which has led to a remarkable set of results so far.

Cakes & Bakes: Hot cross loaf

Home-made hot cross loaf | H is for Home

Easter has come around again. I can’t believe I’ve never made hot cross buns, one of the most the traditional foods of this time of year. I almost never eat them, they traditionally contain orange and lemon peel and zest which my digestive system doesn’t seem to enjoy.

Spiced syrup for glazing hot cross loaf

batter for making cross on hot cross loaf

Baking my own means that I can omit those ingredients and making a hot cross loaf means it’s much easier to toast – the best way to eat it! I bought three, what look to be original Victorian, loaf tins this week. I’ve been looking forward to trying them out on something.

Trio of Victorian loaf tin

Adding starter to flour

I adjusted a hot cross buns recipe from Emmanuel Hadjiandreou’s How to Make Bread. It’s probably the favourite of all my bread-making books because of all the great photos… and the fact that he has a bread-making method where there’s minimal kneading involved.

mixing dried fruit with dried spices

Mixing dried fruit into hot cross loaf dough

There are three main stages – the first two can be done a day or more in advance, allowing you to pace your bread-making and get other things done in between if you’re busy.

hot cross loaf dough in vintage tins

piping on to the top of hot cross loaf

The recipe made two medium-sized loaves, the best hot cross bread I’ve ever eaten. A gorgeous flavour and texture, toasted and slathered in butter… yum!

Hot cross loaf
Yields 2
For the glaze
  1. 225ml water
  2. 75g sugar
  3. 1 cinnamon stick
  4. 3 cloves
  5. 2 star anise
For the crosses
  1. 45ml water
  2. 20ml vegetable oil
  3. 40g plain flour
  4. ¼tsp salt
For the dough
  1. 10g fresh yeast or 5g active dry yeast
  2. 40g sugar
  3. 200ml warm water
  4. 200g plain flour
  5. 150g sultanas
  6. 150g currants
  7. 1tsp ground ginger
  8. 1tsp ground cinnamon
  9. ¼tsp ground cloves
  10. 200g strong bread flour
  11. ¼tsp salt
  12. 90g butter, softened
  13. 1 egg, beatenHome-made hot cross loaf ingredients
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For the glaze
  1. Put the water, sugar, cinnamon, cloves and star anise in a small saucepan.
  2. Heat and bring up to a boil
  3. Take off the heat and set aside in a cool place to allow the the spices to infuse. This glaze can be made a day in advance and stored in the fridge to use repeatedly for this recipe
For the crosses
  1. In a measuring jug, combine the water and oil
  2. In a small bowl, mix the flour and salt
  3. Add the oil mixture to the flour & salt mixture and combine well until you get a soft, smooth paste
  4. Cove and set aside in a cool place until needed
For the dough
  1. Grease two 450g/1lb loaf tins
  2. In a (larger) mixing bowl, weigh out the yeast. Add the sugar and water and stir until dissolved
  3. Add the plain flour and combine until well mixed. This is the pre-ferment
  4. Cover the bowl and let ferment in a warm place until doubled in size - about half an hour
  5. While the pre-ferment rises, weigh out the dried fruit and spices, mix together and set aside
  6. In another (smaller) mixing bowl, mix together the strong bread flor and salt. This is the dry mixture
  7. Pull small pieces off the butter and lightly rub into the dry mixture using your fingertips until there are no more big lumps of butter
  8. Add the egg and risen pre-ferment to the flour mixture and combine with your hands until it comes together
  9. Cover and let stand for 10 minutes
  10. After the 10 minutes, with the dough remaining in the bowl, pull a portion of the dough up from the side ans press it in the middle. Turn the bowl slightly and repeat this process with another portion of the dough
  11. Cover the bowl again and let stand for 10 minutes
  12. Repeat steps 9 & 10 three times
  13. Add the reserved dried fruit mixture to the dough and knead gently until thoroughly mixed in
  14. Cover and let rise for half an hour
  15. Lightly dust a clean work surface with flour
  16. Transfer the dough to the floured work surface and divide into 2 equal pieces
  17. Form each piece into rounded oblongs and place into the two greased loaf tins
  18. Cover and allow to rise until doubled in size
  19. About 20 minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 220ºC/425ºF/Gas mark 7. Place a roasting tin at the bottom of the oven to preheat. Fill a cup with water and set aside
  20. Fill a piping bag with the reserved mixture for the crosses. Pipe a cross across the top of each loaf
  21. Put the loaf tins into the oven, pour the reserved cupful of water onto the hot roasting tin and lower the temperature to 180ºC/350ºF/Gas mark 4
  22. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until golden brown
  23. Remove from the oven, brush lightly with the reserved glaze
  24. Allow to cool before slicing (toasting) and serving
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Adapted from How to Make Bread
Adapted from How to Make Bread
H is for Home Harbinger http://hisforhomeblog.com/

Cakes & Bakes: Crescia

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Slices of crescia with mini chick decorations | H is for Home

It’s Easter week, so we thought that we should make something that’s traditionally eaten at this time of year for this edition of Cakes & Bakes. We plumped for Crescia – an Italian cheese loaf.

Crescia ingredients | H is for Home

You can use any hard cheese – parmesan, pecorino and so on.

Crescia dough | H is for Home

The dough is simple to make and easy to handle.

Crescia dough proving | H is for Home

It’s baked in a tall tin so it has a distinctive shape, like a panettone – the smell as it cooked was amazing!

Baked crescia loaf in tin | H is for Home

A very handsome loaf wouldn’t you agree?

Crescia loaf | H is for Home

The bread is light and airy with a wonderful flavour. It’s traditionally eaten with cold meats. I’m vegetarian, but Justin volunteered to test this combination and tried it with some of his fennel salami – a perfect match he thought. It also works really well with various cheeses, olives, marinated vegetables, oil & balsamic vinegar etc, etc, etc. 

Slices of crescia with salami, cheese and salad | H is for Home

We can highly recommend this loaf – and we certainly won’t be waiting till next Easter to make another one!

You can pin the recipe from here to try later!

Crescia
A light & cheesy Italian loaf enjoyed at Easter
Cook Time
40 min
Cook Time
40 min
Ingredients
  1. 300g grated hard cheese (such as Parmesan Reggiano, Pecorino Romano or Grana Padano)
  2. 5 eggs
  3. 1tsp cracked black pepper
  4. pinch of salt
  5. 150g olive oil
  6. 150ml warm milk
  7. 1tbsp yeast
  8. ½tsp granulated sugar
  9. 600g strong bread flourHome-made crescia ingredients
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Instructions
  1. Put the grated cheese into a large mixing bowl
  2. Break the eggs into a bowl or large measuring jug. Add the salt & pepper and whisk slightly
  3. Add the egg mixture to the grated cheese, add the olive oil and combine
  4. In a measuring jug, dissolve the yeast in the warm milk, add the sugar and allow to stand for 10 minutes
  5. Add ⅓ of the flour to the cheese, egg & oil mixture and combine
  6. Add ⅓ of the dissolved yeast mixture and combine
  7. Alternate adding & combining the flour and yeast mixtures until it has all been incorporated and you have a smooth paste that comes away from the edges of the bowl
  8. Cover the bowl with cling film/Saran wrap and allow to rise in a warm place for at least an hour or until the dough has doubled in size
  9. Grease a high-sided baking tin such as a panettone tin (I used the tall bottom pan from my 3-tier steamer)
  10. Generously flour a work surface, turn out the dough and knock back before putting it into the high-sided baking tin and again covering with cling film/Saran wrap
  11. Allow the dough rise again until it has doubled in size (about 45 minutes to an hour)
  12. In the meantime, preheat the oven to 175°C/350°F/Gas mark 4
  13. Bake for 45-50 minutes until golden brown and an inserted skewer comes away clean
  14. Remove the loaf from the tin straight away and allow to cool on a wire rack
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H is for Home Harbinger http://hisforhomeblog.com/

Etsy List: Easter egg hunt

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'Easter egg hunt' Etsy List curated by H is for Home

The days are getting longer, spring lambs are appearing in the fields near our house and bulbs are flowering in the garden – Easter is on the way!

Easter is all about birth and rebirth… the egg is the quintessential symbol of the time. Here’s our own little egg hunt – an internet hunt! We’ve done the searching so you can simply click & view.

Perhaps even multi-task a bit – one hand for the keyboard, one hand for chocolate!

Easter egg hunt
Curated by H is for Home