Challenge No. 29 – Chocolate Panda Cupcakes (Gluten Free)

This challenge wasn’t actually suggested by any friend or family for Challenge52, however, it is a bake which I owed to a friend from a couple of years ago.  Chloè absolutely loves pandas and she found some photos of panda cupcakes and sent them to me.  I offered to make them for her birthday but unfortunately life got in the way and I didn’t manage to do it.  So I added this one to Challenge52 myself as a special gift for Chloè’s birthday.

These cute mini panda cupcakes have been inspired by Bakerella.  Whilst Bakerella gives you all the tips you need to decorate the cakes, I needed to find a gluten free cake recipe for Chloè.  I did a quick search and found this recipe for a gluten free chocolate cake.

To make these gluten free chocolate panda cupcakes you will need the following ingredients:-

  • 100g unsalted butter, diced, plus extra for greasing
  • 140g best-quality dark chocolate, with 70% cocoa solids, broken into pieces
  • 6 large eggs, separated
  • 140g ground almonds
  • pinch of salt
  • 85g caster sugar
  • 150g unsalted butter
  • 300g icing sugar
  • 1tsp vanilla extract
  • Popping candy
  • Chocolate chips
  • Chocolate sprinkles
  • A black icing pen

Edited - ingredients

Bakerella uses sanding sugar which is a special type of sugar used in baking and cake decorating.  It has an extra sparkle compared to normal granulated sugar and it can be cooked and added to icing without dissolving.  I couldn’t find any sanding sugar in my local shops so I thought I would try it with popping candy as it was the closest colour to what I needed.

The cupcakes are made with petit four cases and the above quantities made 50 mini cupcakes, with leftover cake mix! So unless you are making these for a big groups of people, it might be worth reducing the quantities 🙂

I started by putting my diced butter and broken chocolate into a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water.  I kept string and then once the butter and chocolate were melted I took it off the heat and mixed until it was well combined. 

Edited - butter:choc Edited - melted

I let the chocolate butter mixture cool for 5 minutes and spent the time separating the eggs.

Edited - eggs

I then added the ground almonds and egg yolks to the chocolate/butter mixture.

Edited - almonds added

I added a pinch of salt to my egg whites and whisked them into soft peaks.   I then added a little of the caster sugar at a time and kept whisking until I had stiff peaks.

Edited - soft peaks Edited - stiff peaks

I added 2 large tablespoons of the eggs whites to the chocolate mixture.  Once it was combined, I gradually added all of the eggs whites, folding it in carefully until all the white was gone.  This took longer than I thought it would but I kept my patience as I didn’t want to beat the air out of the egg whites.

Edited - whites added Edited - mixed up

With the cake mixture ready, I put all my cases on a tray and used a measuring spoon to put a teaspoon of mixture into each case.

Edited - cases

I then put them in the oven for 8 minutes at 200 degrees celsius until cooked through.

Edited - cooked

Once the cakes were cool, I got started with the panda decorating.  I started by putting 150g softened butter into a bowl and whisked it with my handheld electric mixer.  As said in Challenge No. 13, it is important not to rush this stage and so I did this for about 5 minutes.

Edited - butter softened

I gradually added the icing sugar, covering the bowl with a clean tea towel and whisking between each addition until combined. I continued adding a bit at a time until all the icing sugar was incorporated and I added the vanilla extract towards the end.

Edited - buttercream

I put 1/4 of the mixture into a piping bag fitted with a No. 2 nozzle and the remainder into another piping bag fitted with a No. P6 nozzle.

Now for the fun bit, making the little panda faces.  I took each cupcake and pipped icing on top using the wide nozzle before dipping it into a bowl of popping candy (ensuring it was fully covered).  I added 2 chocolate drops for ears, 2 for eyes and one for the nose.  I then added a chocolate sprinkle for the mouth.  Finally, I used the smaller nozzle to pipe the whites of the eyes onto the chocolate drops.  Once the whites were set, I used my icing pen to add the black centres.

Edited - pandas Edited - three pandas

And there you have it, mini chocolate panda cupcakes.

I think these are just so cute! They tasted really nice too 🙂 The only problem was that my popping candy very quickly lost its pop! As I was decorating the cakes, I kept hearing the faint sound of the candy popping on the finished cupcakes.  By the time I had one the next day, there was no pop left. But this doesn’t take away from how cute they are.

Coming up next week, Challenge No. 30 – fig and goats cheese tart.

Challenge No. 27 – Knickerbocker Glory

This challenge was suggested by Dave, my better half.  We will be celebrating our 7 year anniversary this weekend and a common theme throughout our relationship has been Dave saying “what you’ve never tried/seen/heard this or that”.  Until Dave, I hadn’t tried hotdogs from a tin or corned beef, I hadn’t seen The Breakfast Club, ET, Jurassic Park (to name but a few films that escaped my childhood) and I’d never heard of the Smiths.  But for once, it was my turn to educate Dave; whilst he suggested this challenge, he’s never actually had a knickerbocker glory! This has now been corrected.

A knickerbocker glory was a common treat throughout my childhood and it instantly makes me think of my nan.  My brother and I used to go and stay with my nan every summer and she would always make us this yummy desert.  There was however a caveat, we could only have it if we pronounced it properly! We soon learned to say knickerbocker glory without stumbling 🙂

When I started looking for recipes to make this challenge, I realised they are all very different and really what I wanted to do was recreate my nan’s version.  I text my brother and mum to see if they could remember what was in it and after some input from them both, we decided on the following ingredients:-

  • Vanilla ice cream
  • Strawberry jelly
  • Fruit (fresh or tinned cocktail mix)
  • Strawberry sauce
  • Whipped cream
  • Hundreds and thousands

Edited - ingredients

I always remember my nan using tinned fruit cocktail, although I think she would use fresh fruit if she had some in.  I opted for the tinned fruit because this is what came to mind when I tried to remember my nan’s version 🙂

I also cheated a little and used shop bought ice cream but if you’re feeling adventures why not check out Challenge 19 to see how to make ice cream from scratch without an ice cream maker! Just leave out the rum and raisins, unless you want a more adult version of the knickerbocker glory.

Another important aspect of the knickerbocker glory is the serving dish.  I didn’t have anything suitable at home so popped out and bought some special glasses which reminded me of the ones my nan used to use.

Anyway, with all the elements ready, I started building my knickerbocker glory.  Firstly, I added a little bit of ice cream.

Edited - layer 1

Then I added some jelly.

Edited - layer 2

Next up I added some fruit (I drained off the liquid first).

Edited - layer 3

I then put in a little strawberry sauce.  I added more ice cream, jelly and fruit to fill to the top of the glass.

Finally, I added my whipped cream, topped it with some more sauce and then sprinkled over a handful of hundreds.

Edited - done2

Doesn’t it look pretty! 🙂

Now I know this didn’t take much skill but it does hold so many fond memories for me that it was nice to be able to share it with Dave.  He loved it by the way, although he managed to get in a right mess trying to eat it!

Coming up next week, Challenge No. 28 – homemade pizza.  I hope to see you then.


Challenge No. 23 – Chocolate Truffles

This recipe was suggested by my friend Katie.  On Saturday another friend of ours had a garden party for her hen do and I decided to attempt this challenge at the weekend so I could take the truffles to be enjoyed by all the girls.  I was staying with Katie and she got very excited when I said I was making them to take with us.  Considering I was taking the truffles to a hen do, I thought I would make them a little bit special by adding some alcohol 🙂 So this is my attempt at Prosecco truffles and Disaronno truffles.

I did a little bit of internet searching and found a lovely looking Prosecco truffle recipe by Miss Messy (aka Holly).  I think these truffles are adorable with the addition of the little gold hearts. I even bought some edible glitter so I could do the same but I sadly ran out of time – I’ll have to try this next time.

I adapted Miss Messy’s recipe to make my Disaronno truffles.  The method is exactly the same but it’s just the ingredients which differ slightly. 

  • For Prosecco truffles I used the following:-
    • 280g good-quality dark chocolate
    • 280ml double cream
    • 50g unsalted butter
    • 20ml Prosecco
    • cocoa powder
  • For the Disaronno truffles I used the following:-
    • 280g good-quality dark chocolate
    • 280ml double cream
    • 50g unsalted butter
    • 2 tbsp Disaronno
    • cocoa powder

Note: I accidently left out the cocoa powder in this photo so it its own below 🙂

I started by making the Prosecco truffles and broke the chocolate into small pieces to put into a large bowl.

Edited - chocolate broken

I put the butter into my saucepan, poured over the cream and put it on a medium heat.  I kept a close eye on this and kept stirring until the butter had melted and the cream was nice and hot.  It was just about starting to bubble when I decided it was hot enough.

Practical tip: to help the butter melt quickly so that your cream doesn’t burn, let it sit at room temperature before starting and chop it into small pieces.

In the pan Melted cream

Once the cream was ready, I poured it over the chocolate and let it sit for a minute before I gave it a good stir.  At first, the mix was a bit milky looking but after a bit of patience and continued stirring, it turned a beautifully rich chocolate colour. 

Melting Chocolate ganache

I mixed in the Prosecco and poured the ganache into a clean dish to cool.  I covered the dish with cling film and put it in the fridge. 

In the dish

I then got started on the Disaronno truffles and I repeated all of the above steps.  In hindsight, I could have simply made all the ganache together and separated it into two bowls before adding the alcohol…but I didn’t do this and I’m not sure why! I’m going to put it down to having a bit of a blonde moment.

With both my ganache mixtures chilling in the fridge, I realised it was already 11pm!  The recipe says to leave the ganache for at least 4 hours and considering the time, I decided to just leave it overnight. 

The next morning, I took the dishes out of the fridge to check them and the mixture was really hard! I panicked a little and decided to let them sit at room temperature for about half hour before I started shaping the truffles.  It turns out I didn’t need to do this and it actually just made rolling the truffles a bit more difficult as the ganache was melting.  So I popped the dishes back in the fridge to firm up again.

With the ganache re-chilled, I got a shallow bowl and poured in some cocoa powder. 

Cocoa powder

I took one of the dishes out of the fridge and started forming my truffle balls.  I coated my hands in the cocoa powder and used a measuring spoon to scoop out a small portion of ganache.  I rolled the ganache in my hands to achieve a rough ball shape (as much as tried, they weren’t very neat!) and then rolled the ball in the cocoa powder before popping it to one side and getting on with the rest.

Things got a little messy here so I couldn’t get any photos of the rolling process but here is the aftermath…

What a mess

Once all the truffles were rolled and coated, I put them in the fridge to keep chilled until I left for the garden party.

Done On a plate

So these truffles were really nice, however, none of us could taste the alcohol and I couldn’t even tell the difference between the Prosecco ones and the Disaronno ones! Next time, I’ll just make sure to add some more alcohol 🙂

Whilst all the girls enjoyed these little chocolate treats, some of them weren’t a massive fan of the cocoa coating.  Another recipe I found used a mixture of icing sugar and cocoa powder and I think this would perhaps be a bit lighter.  I’m going to give this a try next time and I’ll let you know how I get on. 

Coming up next week, Challenge No. 24 – scotch eggs.