cooking with kids

Halloweenie Cupcakes

It’s been a while since Harry and I whipped ourselves up into a culinary frenzy, so with Halloween soon to be upon us we present to you… Halloweenies!! Our homemade concoction is essentially carrot cupcakes (because we love them), with whipped cream cheese frosting and fondant pumpkins (because you can never pack too many calories into a single cupcake…).

For the Carroty Cupcakes you’ll need;

  • 100g / 3.5 oz self raising flour
  • 100g / 3.5 oz wholemeal self-raising flour
  • 175g / 6 oz muscovado sugar
  • 1tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 2tsp mixed spice
  • 200g / 7 oz grated carrot (about 2 large carrots)
  • zest of 1 orange (or a dash of orange extract if you have already accidentally grated your knuckles by this point and are damned if you’re going to try grating anything else)
  • 2 eggs
  • 175ml of vegetable oil.

Mix all the dry ingredients together, whisk the eggs and oil in a cup and pour in, then sprinkle the carrot over the top.  Stir and fold until you have a delicious, gooey brown mess, then spoon it carefully into a lined muffin tin – we managed to fill 12, with Harry eating about 2 further helpings of ‘leftover’ cake mix. The uncooked batter will be thicker than a traditional cupcake batter, which means you should spill less of it en route to the muffin cases.  Bake these at 180 degrees C / 350 F for about 20 minutes.  Whip them out and they should look a little like this;

Whilst these beauties are cooling, whip up your frosting using 300g cream cheese, 50g softened butter and 200g icing sugar.  Then tackle the fondant pumpkins; I used a pre-coloured orange fondant and rolled out 12 small balls.  Using a toothpick, find a point and press firmly down the side of the ball, rolling it in your hand.  Repeat five times, rotating the ball as you go.  Make a small hole with the point of your toothpick at the top, and then press down lightly to flatten the ball slightly and deepen the grooves you’ve made.  We then added some tiny pine twigs in the top, having boiled them quickly to remove any gremlins first.

As a final touch, I wrapped each Halloweenie in black ribbon and added a Boo! motif; you can download my template at the bottom of this post.

Now, sit back and admire your efforts.  Contemplate inviting friends over to share these then decide, on balance, to eat them one by one until you are entirely unable to move.  Check upper lip for tell-tale smudges of frosting before leaving the house.

Halloweenie BOO Stickers

A berried feast for Autumn

This weekend we went blackberry picking, or, as Harry would have it, ‘hunting and catching black strawberries’. Whereas strawberries are quite robust and able to resist the pincer-like grip of a two-year old, blackberries were something of a revelation to H, given their tendency to explode into purple mush at first grasp.  Our journey along the hedgerow was thus peppered by startled exclamations & chortling from Harry and much wiping of blackberry juice from eyes, hair, clothing and the occasional unfortunate passerby.  Our exertions left us suddenly hungry, causing us to eat almost all of our spoils – so we had to start again.  I now understand why supermarket blackberries cost so much; it can take hours to fill a bucket..

We added an apronful of windfall apples from the garden and some homemade lavender sugar to make these individual crumbles, which seemed to disappear in the blink of an eye, though doubtless will reappear on my waistline shortly.  I made up this recipe, I must confess, so feel free to adapt and experiment; we love a dash of ginger and cinnamon so you’ll see both here… and whilst purists use brown sugar in the compote, we prefer our white lavender sugar for a taste of sunshine.  My quantities make 4 individual crumbles, so just flex your quantities, keeping the ratios, for the size you need.

For the fruit compote:

  • 5 eating apples, or 2 cooking apples
  • 2 cupfuls of blackberries
  • 3 tablespoons of sugar (halve this if using eating apples, which are much sweeter and less tart). I used lavender sugar, made a few months before by stirring dried lavender sprigs into a jar of sugar and sealing tight; this gives a lovely hint of flavour and aroma to the sugar which is enhanced by cooking.
  • pinch of cinnamon

Peel, core and chop the apples into bite-sized chunks, and soften on the hob with a spoonful of water and the sugar.  Set the oven to 180c/350f to come to temperature whilst you prepare the crumble.  After 5-10 minutes the kitchen will fill with the delicious smell of caramelising apple; take the pan off the hob and stir in the berries and cinnamon.  Spoon into individual ovenproof bowls or a single dish.

For the crumble topping

  • 200g / 7oz plain flour
  • 100g / 3.5oz soft brown sugar
  • 100g / 3.5oz butter, at room temperature
  • pinch of ginger (optional)
  • handful of flaked almonds or chopped nuts

Stir together the dry ingredients and then add the butter, crumbling together with your fingers till you have a lumpy, sandy consistency; don’t work it in completely as you don’t want the top to be too fine and smooth.  Spoon this mixture over the fruit and sprinkle with the nuts, if using.

Finally pop in the oven for around 20 minutes; they’re done when the top browns slightly and the filling begins to bubble.  Use this time constructively to decide whether you are going to accompany these with custard (the traditional British favourite), whipped cream, ice cream or – heart health be damned – all three.  When cooled slightly, pile these beauties onto a tray and find a nice tree in the garden under which to eat them, because food really does taste better outdoors, especially after all that hard work in the hedgerows…