Over-indulging in sweet treats over the Christmas period is a time-honoured tradition which most of us take up with great gusto and enthusiasm. Never ones to refuse an opportunity for a sugar hit, children can usually be found at the front of the queue when it comes to dessert doling out time, with one notable exception, Christmas Day.
While the mere aroma of boozy, fruity puddings may be enough to have parents breaking out the mince pies in mid-October, your child is more likely to find rich, highly spiced desserts a turn-off. A recent survey carried out by Lyle’s Golden Syrup revealed that 80% of parents asked said their children have no appetite for traditional Christmas cakes and pies. Armed with this knowledge, cookery expert and mother-of-three Fiona Faulkner has devised a series of delicious wintry recipes aimed at appealing to children’s palates as well as their sense of fun. Read on for her trio of delectable confections full of quirky twists and plenty of whizz, bang, pop certain to delight even the fussiest young cake connoisseurs.
Baked Ice Cream Sticky Toffee Cupcakes (makes ten)
150g pitted dates – chopped into small pieces roughly the size of large raisins
250ml just boiled water
2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
150g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
50g Tate & Lyle Fairtrade light brown sugar
75g unsalted butter
3 tbsp Lyle’s Golden Syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 medium eggs, lightly beaten and at room temp
10 teaspoons vanilla ice cream
4 egg whites
200g Tate & Lyle Fairtrade caster sugar
1. Prep up first. Get the kettle on and the oven up to 170°C / fan 150C / gas 3. Place 10 cupcake paper cases in a deep muffin tray and chop up the dates.
2. Place the chopped dates in a bowl and cover with 250ml just-boiled water. Add 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda, give it a quick stir and leave for 10 minutes. Meanwhile…
3. Sift the flour and baking powder into another bowl together with a further 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda. Set aside. Place the brown sugar in a large mixing bowl and set this aside too.
4. Place the butter and golden syrup in a small pan. Gently heat through, stirring, until the butter has melted. You don’t need to get it too hot or for it to boil. Is 10 minutes up yet? Drain off those dates.
5. Pour the syrupy butter mix over the brown sugar and stir with a metal spoon, removing any lumps as you go. Add the drained dates and 1 tsp vanilla extract. Stir.
6. Add half the flour mix and the eggs. Now gently stir to combine. Add the last half of the flour and – still gently – stir through again to combine.
7. Divide equally between the cases and bake in the oven for 18 minutes. Take them out of the oven and leave in their baking trays for a further 10-15 minutes. Then remove them from the trays and leave to cool on a wire rack for around 45 minutes.
8. Take each cupcake and a sharp knife. Cut a hollow out of the top of each cupcake, cutting a circle around the top and cutting down into a sort of small cone-shape, the knife heading towards the centre. Don’t cut as far as the bottom though.
9. Once you’ve removed this central section, add a small spoonful of fully frozen vanilla ice-cream – chop the chunk of ice-cream to fit inside if you need to. You’ll probably use just under a teaspoon or so.
10. Next you’re going to put back the cone section that you just cut away. But before you do, to make sure there’s room for the ice-cream, cut a little off across the thinner bottom of the cone sponge, removing a little bit of cake. Then place back as snugly as you can (feel free to press down a bit), hiding the ice cream secret!
11. Do this for each cake, replacing back into the muffin tray as you go. Then place the tray of cakes in the freezer for at least one hour. You could though leave them over-night if you wanted….
12. 20 minutes before serving, pre-heat the oven to 200C/fan 180C/gas 6. Around 5-10 minutes before serving, whisk the egg whites until they resemble soft white ‘peaks’ building up the speed as you go (far quicker and easier with an electric whisk). At this stage, gradually add the caster sugar, still whisking. You should still have stiff white peaks of meringue mixture.
13. Remove the cakes from the freezer, keeping them in the tray. Use a spoon to fully cover the tops of the cupcakes with the meringue – or pipe it on with a nozzle for decorative effect. Bake in the oven for just 3 minutes. Carefully remove and serve immediately.
* Try a different ice cream flavour such as toffee or rum-raisin for grown-ups.
* If you don’t want to top the cakes with the meringue, bake them with the ice cream as directed for the 3 minutes, then top with a dollop of Lyle’s Golden Syrup.
* For extra festive sparkle, sprinkle the cupcakes with edible gold, glitter or stars or add a dollop of Lyle’s Golden Syrup to the ice cream before freezing.
Popping Candy Magical Christmas Pud (Serves 6-8)
150g soft butter/margarine – plus extra to grease
150g self-raising flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon
150g Tate & Lyle Fairtrade caster sugar
2 medium eggs at room temperature, lightly whisked
2 tbsp milk
3 tbsp Lyle’s Golden Syrup
Edible golden lustre powder – available online or in cake craft shops
3 packs popping candy
You will also need a pudding basin with a capacity of approximately one litre
1. Thoroughly and generously grease the inside of your pudding basin and set aside. In another bowl combine the flour and cinnamon and give it a quick whisk (another time-saving exercise for you – it saves sifting).
2. In a large mixing bowl combine the sugar and butter/margarine until soft and fluffy. I find metal spoons easiest for this. Add a tablespoon of the flour mix and the eggs and stir to combine (don’t panic if it looks curdled).
3. Add half of the rest of the flour mix and the 2 tbsp milk. Gently stir to combine and fold in the flour.
4. Add the last half of the flour mix and the blueberries. Again, gently stir to combine.
5. Pour it all into the pudding basin, leveling off the top with the back of a spoon. Cover tightly with microwavable cling film and prick twice with a fork.
6. Set on HIGH for 5 minutes. Then set to MEDIUM HIGH for a further 7 minutes. Let the pudding sit in the microwave for 1-2 minutes after this before removing with gloves.
7. While it’s cooking combine the golden syrup and gold lustre powder in a small bowl. Set aside.
8. Once you’ve carefully removed the pudding with oven gloves, take off the cling film (be aware of hot steam!) Place an upside down serving plate on top and then – carefully – turn the plate over (still holding the basin in place) so the pudding should slip out of the basin in good shape.
9. Cover with the golden syrup and then very quickly sprinkle over the popping candy – some of it may pop off the dish so be careful!
10. Serve with custard or ice cream.
* Try with frozen winter berries or fresh cranberries.
* Use the juice of a lemon to replace the milk and add a zingy flavour
Magic Snow Sparkles (makes around 12)
2 egg whites
¼ tsp cream of tartar – available in home baking aisle of most supermarkets
2 dsp Lyle’s Golden Syrup
60g Tate & Lyle Fairtrade caster sugar
60g white chocolate roughly chopped into small pieces – plus an extra 90g white chocolate to decorate (optional)
Edible sugar decorations or edible silver glitter
1. Pre-heat the oven to 140°C / fan 120°C / Gas Mark 1 and put the oven racks in the centre of the oven if possible. Cover two large baking trays with silver foil.
2. Whisk the egg whites and the cream of tartar with a stand / electric whisk for 2 minutes, starting slowly and building up the speed. You’ll see it get white and frothy. Meanwhile heat up the syrup in a small pan, stirring with a metal spoon to help loosen it.
3. The egg whites will start to look less frothy and more like a billow of white snow – the ‘soft peaks’ stage. At this point, put the speed up even faster and slowly pour in the caster sugar.
4. The syrup should be warmed through and bubbling a bit – give it a last quick stir through to loosen it. After the caster sugar is in, slowly pour in the heated syrup, still beating at this fast speed (try to aim it into the meringue – though don’t worry if some hits the side and crystallises). The meringue ‘peaks’ now will be firmer.
5. Stop the whisking and gently fold through the chocolate. Dollop dessertspoons of the mixture onto the trays. Place in the oven and bake for 20 minutes at 140°C. Then reduce the heat down to 100°C / fan 90°C / Gas Mark ¼ and continue baking for 1 hour 15 minutes. Finally leave in the (turned-off) oven for a further 30 minutes – 1 hour.
6. Melt the additional chocolate in the microwave, taking care not to over-heat it. Carefully peel the cookies away from the foil, drizzle or pipe a little melted chocolate over each one and then sprinkle with a little Christmas the decorations or glitter.
* Add a couple of handfuls of chopped pecans when you add the chocolate or try crumbling these over vanilla ice cream.
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