Christmas Cupcakes

Happy Christmas Eve!!

Ooh so exciting!

In the Edmond's house Christmas is dictated by tradition.

Each year Jack and I get a new Christmas decoration to hang on the tree. However in order to decorate the tree the whole family must be together and Christmas with Bing MUST be playing.

But the best traditions are the ones kept for the big day itself.

Even though Jack and I are 18 and 20 we still get our Christmas stockings filled with treats. Unfortunately due to our more nocturnal sleeping patterns they do not magically appear at the foot of our beds during the night and instead are found outside our doors.

For as long as I can remember both Jack and I ignore our primal urges to sleep in and wake up at the crack of dawn. Whoever wakes up first has to run into the other's room and jump on their bed and say 'Santas been, Santas been!'.

Then we sit there on our beds going through our stockings and begin the munching on treats. Funnily enough the oranges, which we get every year without fail, are eaten last.

Then at about 6.50am we creep downstairs and put the kettle on. You see our Mum and Dad have some rules: no waking them up before 7 and in order to enter their room we must bring with us two cups of tea before we can show them what Santa brought us.

We grab their stockings (yes Mum and Dad get stockings too) and the tea and bound into their room. We all sit on their bed whilst we show them the night's loot. Then they go through theirs and without fail Mum's annual stash of macadamia nuts is opened. Something that isn't opened is Dad's jar of gherkins.

There is a funny story about these gherkins. Apparently when Dad was a kid, each of his siblings got a type of preserved produce like prunes, picked onions or in Dad's case, gherkins. I can't remember what the fourth item was.

So back in 2001 as a 9 year old, I relabelled the jar. Mum and Dad thought it was so hilarious that a new jar has never been purchased. Last Christmas we celebrated its 10th birthday. So once Dad pulls them out of his stocking, they return to the pantry for another year.

In order to go and open the presents under the tree we must then bring Mum and Dad a second cup of tea each. Once that happens everyone takes their place in the lounge around the tree.

Dad sits by the tree. He is the official present hander outer. Mum is always on the couch opposite the tree with Jack sitting beside her. I am on the couch beside the tree. I am the present assistant.

One by one Dad hands out the presents and we all watch while the present receiver opens their gift. This process lasts around 40 minutes. The older we get the less presents there are to open so we try and make them last.

The best presents are always the ones where we surprise Dad. Two Christmases ago Mum and I surprised Dad with an iPad. We wrapped it up in a huge apple (as in the actual fruit) box to try and trick him. When he got through the layers and then came to the small iPad shaped box he stopped in his tracks. He just stared at all of us in absolute disbelief. A few tears came out of his eyes. It was kind of hilarious to see someone so stoked with a gift.

I think the best present I ever got other than my Baby Born doll, Rosie, was my handmade recipe book that Mum had made for me. It is hand bound and made of hand made paper. It was given to be the Christmas before I left for Otago. Before then Mum and I shared with messy ring bound exercise book which had all our favourite recipes written and glued into it. She realised that upon my departure there would be a custody dispute over it. So she took some of the pictures from it, copied them and this lady incorporated them into the design. It was the best thing ever.

This book is filled with special recipe like my Nana's Christmas cake recipe which I got her to hand write.

I think Christmas cake is one of the best foods at Christmas time. Forget mince pies, ham and scorched almonds. The cake is where it's at. Of course it needs to be covered in the white and almond icing.

I found this recipe in the Christmas section of my Hummingbird Cake Days book. It uses fruit cake fruit, a nice dosing of the festive alcohol of your fancy and some delicious almond flavoured icing.

This recipe said to use rum to soak the fruit in. Unfortunately (very unfortunately) we did not have rum in the house hold and I thought Mum's stash of gin wouldn't be quite the same. Nana's cake recipe always uses sherry or brandy so I decided to substitute the rum for sherry to give it a more Edmond's family twist.

I also thing fruit cakes should be nice and dense with fruit so I used more fruit that it said. I also added a few more Christmas cakey spices and flavours such as almond and a bit of brandy essence.

Mum thinks these are better the day after you make them as they don't dry out like normal cupcakes. Try making the cake the day before you need them but ice them on the day.

I also didn't have any dark brown sugar, only normal lightly coloured stuff. This made the cakes not as rich in colour as I would have liked but they still tasted amazing.

Christmas Cupcakes
Adapted from the Hummingbird Bakery's Cake Days book 
Makes 22

400g dried mixed fruit
100 ml rum/brandy/sherry
200g softened butter
200g soft dark brown sugar
4 large eggs
160g plain flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
60g ground almonds
1 teaspoon almond essence
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
a few drops of brandy essence

For the icing:
500g icing sugar
100g softened butter
50ml whole milk
1/2 teaspoon almond essence

First soak the dried fruit in the rum/sherry/brandy for 30 minutes or overnight (overnight would be best).

Preheat the oven to 190 degrees on bake.

Cream together the butter and sugar until pale brown and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time and beat well between each addition. Beat until very fluffy. Add the essences. If the mixture looks like it is about to split, throw in a  few tablespoons of flour to help stabilise it.

Sift together the flour, baking powder and spices then add to the egg, butter and sugar mix. Mix until combined.

Add in the ground almonds and then the fruit and rum mix. The mixture will be quite sloppy.

Transfer some of the mixture into a pouring jug and fill a muffin tin lined with cupcake cases until each case is two thirds full.

Bake for 20 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean or the sponge bounces back when pressed.

Once cooked, transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Once fully cooled, cream together the icing ingredients until light and fluffy. More milk or icing sugar might need to be added. Make sure you sift the icing sugar especially if you plan on piping the icing on.

decorate with some festive sprinkles and enjoy!

Merry Christmas!

Enjoy x

Spice Crisps

I recently went on a cookbook buying binge.

Owning cookbooks is a bit of an obsession. I decided that I was going to one day have an epic collection of cookbooks and they would all be arranged in a magnificent bookcase in my wonderful kitchen.

I remember reading an article about people's obsessions with cookbooks in The New Zealand Herald Canvas magazine (I think). How many of your mums own cookbooks but have made only one or two things from each one? I bet they bought them because they liked the look of the things inside. We buy cookbooks that have nice rustic pictures with beautiful platters and table settings because we crave the lifestyle portrayed by those books. We crave those lazy Sunday mornings where a wonderful rustic inspired brunch is whisked up. We want to lead the lives of those people who are always entertaining friends and family over  a late lunch or evening meal with seemingly perfect meals that they just whipped up from this and that.

When we buy cookbooks, we buy the ideal.

Or so the article said.

Sure the best part of cookbooks are the pictures. I tend to dislike cookbooks that don't have a picture for almost every recipe. I like being able to see what my food should look like in the end, afterall we eat with our eyes. We choose what we want to eat based on how it's texture and colour appear.

Cookbooks to me are also a source of knowledge. If you take the time to read the blurbs before each recipe and the page or two written by the author you may or may not find yourself learning something new. A new technique, a new trick, anything. The authors take the time in the first few pages to talk about their inspirations for the book. That may be their childhood, recent travel adventures or friends and family. It is actually an interesting read. Books that are published by cafes tend to have a bit at the front that tells the story of how the now successful cafe or restaurant came to be and hurdles that had to be overcome.

One of the recent purchases I made was Ladies a Plate: Traditional Home Baking by Alexa Johnston. This book is particularly interesting as each recipe comes with a mini history lesson on how this recipe came to become a New Zealand household classic. Photos of old Women's Institute cookery books and school fundraiser cookbooks are included. The recipes included are the ones that our nanas used to make and the pages provide a real sense of nostalgia.

While I find I might not make the majority of recipes in this book it is still a really good one to have in my collection. What makes this book special is the amount of detail and effort that went into sourcing and researching these recipes.

I love gingernuts. They are so great. Dunked into a nice hot cup of tea they are amazing (except when it crumbles to the bottom of your teacup and in the last gulp of tea you get a mass of soggy crumbs. Gross!).

I tried making ginger nuts from the Edmonds Cookery Book but unfortunately they did not have the same crispness that the good old Griffin's biscuits provide. These ones however are delicious. Before you bake them you roll them in sugar which gives them an excellent crispness. They are nice and spicy and I guess are quite a perfect little treat to make this time of year. The smell of them baking in the oven is amazing! It is one of the best baking smells to have wafting around the house.

These are super easy. The method says to leave the mixture in the fridge for at least and hour to firm up. I went to the gym whilst I was waiting to them to cool and I have to say it did make a huge difference when rolling them. They formed perfect smooth little balls which then flattened into perfect circular biscuits when they came out of the oven.

The recipe said to use treacle but unfortunately I still have not invested in treacle. I used golden syrup instead and they still turned out great.

These make a good homemade substitution for the trusty Griffin's gingernut and are best consumed when still slightly warm! Dad was most stoked with these biscuits. He is always one to complain about how the Griffin's gingernuts hurt his teeth but these ones are much more pleasant on the dental work.

Spice Crisps
Adapted from Ladies, A Plate by Alexa Johnston
Makes 48

170g butter, softened
200g sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1 egg
100g golden syrup (or treacle)
280g plain flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 cup extra white sugar for rolling

Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla, egg and golden syrup (or treacle) and beat on high until very fluffy.

Sift in the flour, baking soda, salt and spices and mix until combined.

Glad wrap the bowl and place in the fridge to cool and firm for an hour.

Preheat the oven to 190 degrees on bake.

Make large marble sized balls of dough by rolling well between the palms to make a smooth ball.

Roll each ball in sugar before placing on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Don't flatten them with a fork as they will flatten themselves but make sure they are well spaced.

Bake for 10-12 minutes until they are dark golden in colour and the tops have cracked just be sure not to overcook them.

Transfer to a cooling wire rack to crisp up.


So many noms.

Gingerbread Cupcakes

I love gingerbread.

Its so great. I love the crunchy crust that forms on the top. Oh and when it is still warm and the butter melts into it. Ahhh so good.

It's another one of those Christmassy treats that can be made this time of year for no proper reasoning other than that it is Christmas time.

I basically made gingerbread. In a cupcake case. That had stripes on it. Cool eh?

And what makes everything better?

Cream cheese icing.

That's right, sooo delicious.

We are all moving Nana into her new place tomorrow so Mum asked me to make something to fill her tins that we could snack on during the day. She asked for cupcakes, or gingerbread or something.

Two birds. One stone.

I got this recipe here from my Cake Days book (no surprises there). You guys really should buy it. So worth it. The recipe said to add black treacle. Unfortunately we didn't have any here, I just substituted in the same weight of golden syrup. This makes the final sponge not as dark as it should and the black treacle would have lent a deeper flavour. But never mind, there is always next time. Which there will be! These are delicious!

Gingerbread Cupcakes
Adapted from Cake Days
Makes 12-16 regular sized cupcakes or 20 scalloped cupcake case sized ones

140g softened butter
200g caster sugar
120g golden syrup (or 60g black treacle and 60g golden syrup)
2 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
310g plain flour
1 tablespoon cocoa
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 teaspoon baking powder
240ml hot milk

50g cream cheese
50g butter
400g icing sugar, sieved
A couple of tablespoons of milk
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Preheat the oven to 190 degrees and line two muffin trays with cupcake cases.

Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the golden syrup (and treacle), eggs and egg yolks and beat until fluffy.

In a separate bowl, sift together the dry ingredients. Add the dry ingredients to the egg mixture in three lots, alternating with the hot milk.

Once all the ingredients have been added, beat until the batter is smooth.

Pour the batter into the cupcake cases until they are two thirds full.

Bake for 20 minutes until a skewer comes out clean.

Once they are cool, prepare the icing by creaming together all the icing ingredients until light and fluffy.  Add as much milk as you need to smooth the icing out.


I did :)

Festive White Chocolate Rocky Road

This is festive if you live in the Northern hemisphere where in Winter at Christmas your roads are actually white.

I saw the idea for white chocolate rocky road on Instagram and Pinterest a while back and I really liked the way it looked. It made the nuts and other fillings you add to it really stand out against the white. Especially the cranberries and the pistachios.

The normal rocky road my Mum makes involves melting butter into the chocolate. I couldn't really be bothered to do that and so took the easy road out and just used straight white melting chocolate with nothing else added to it. This ensures that it sets nice and hard so that it can be cut into nicely defined pieces.

Now the beauty of this recipe is that you can add anything you want! (Well within reason I guess).

One of my best friends, Cara, was up in Auckland for the week (for her Med interview! Smartie pants!) and we found ourselves in need of something to do. So we scoured the Pak n Save bulk bins for some exciting treats to pave our road with.

With this rocky road, try and look for ingredients that will have an interesting cross section against the white chocolate. So really the more colourful the better. I love the way jube lollies look when they are cut in half. Same with pistachios, the vibrant green is really cool!

If you find yourself with a lot of filling ingredients, you may need a bit more chocolate to coat everything in. We found ourselves increasing our chocolate amount to 500g from 400g to ensure everything was well cemented together.

Use this recipe here as a guideline for your own Christmas road!

Cara and Sophie's White Chocolate Rocky Road
Makes a 20 x 30cm trays worth

500g white chocolate melts
3/4 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup dried strawberries
5 dried figs, chopped into chunks
1 1/2 cups jubes
1/2 cup dried blueberries
1/2 cup natural macadamia nuts
1/2 cup pistachios
3 cups marshmallows (130g)
1/2 cup natural almonds

In a double boiler (a bowl above a saucepan of simmering water) melt the chocolate slowly. Make sure no water gets into the chocolate or else it will seize. Also make sure the water is not touching the base of the bowl.

Chop all the larger ingredients into smaller pieces. Place them in a large mixing bowl and mix them around.

Line a 20 x 30cm slice tin with baking paper.

Pour the melted chocolate into the bowl of chopped filling and mix to coat everything.

Transfer into the lined tin and press down to form a nice even slice.

Leave to cool in the fridge for an hour before slicing into nice chunky pieces.

Personally, I found the strawberries and the blueberries not very economical choices of ingredients. I would add in a few more jubes and cranberries instead if I were you.

Enjoy! x