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. 25 – Sweet Potato Brownie (Gluten Free)

This challenge was due to be posted last Thursday, however, on Wednesday evening I received the terrible news that my brother’s soon to be father-in-law had been killed in a motorcycle accident.    Dave was a wonderful man who was so full of life and laughter.  It is a heartbreaking loss for his family but also all those who knew and experienced Dave (it has been said that you didn’t just know Dave, you experienced him!).  Sadly Dave died as a result of a car driver pulling out in front of him, the type of accident bikers cannot account for.  His family have already tried to increase awareness for other bikers and so I start this post with my condolences and love to the Cook family but also a message to all those who use the roads – please be aware of motorbike riders, look twice maybe even three time before pulling out.  That final check could stop another family having to go through this painful experience.   Rest in peace Dave, you will be sadly missed by all those who had the pleasure of knowing you.

And so, through teary eyes, I continue with this post…

This challenge was suggested by my friend Danny and it was a bit of a tricky one for me.  Sweet potatoes have soared in popularity in the UK recently and a quick search online revealed lots of recipes for sweet potato brownies.  However, Danny specifically requested the brownies be gluten free.  Trying to find a simple recipe for gluten free sweet potato brownies was more difficult.  All the ones I found used ‘cups’ for the ingredients measurements (which I never use!) and also gluten free flour.  I wanted to avoid using a gluten free flour and so I searched until I found a recipe which used other ingredients.   

Eventually I found this recipe by Lindsay on The Lean Green Bean blog (be sure to check it out)!  I’ve converted the recipe away from ‘cups’ and to make these delicious sweet potato brownies, you will need the following ingredients:-

  • 175 g chopped, pitted dates
  • 130g cooked sweet potato, mashed
  • 190g  nut butter (I used peanut butter)
  • 2 eggs
  • 63g applesauce
  • 40g unsweetened cocoa powder
  • ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 100g dark chocolate chips

Edited - ingredients

I started off by cooking the sweet potato.  I’ve made sweet potato fries before, but I wasn’t sure of the best (and quickest) way to cook the sweet potato for mashing purposes.  I did a bit of research and decided to use the microwave.  I simply pricked the potato with a fork and popped it in the microwave on high for 8 minutes (turning it over half way through).  After cutting the potato open, I realised this wasn’t quite long enough to cook it all the way through.  However, the outside bits were soft enough to give me 130g of mashed potato.

Whilst the potato was in the microwave, I added my dates and peanut butter to a food mixer.  I then added the mashed sweet potato and blitzed it until smooth.  This actually took quite a while because the mix was so thick.  I was slightly worried the motor on my mixer was going to blow, it definitely got very hot but managed to survive the challenge!

Edited- step 1

Once the mixture was smooth, I added the eggs and applesauce and blended the mixture until it was combined.

Edited - step 2

I then decided to tip the mixture into a large bowl before adding the final ingredients.  This is mainly because my mixer is small but also the motor was really hot after working such a thick mixture so a rest was clearly needed!  Once the mixture was in the bowl, I sifted in the cocoa powder and bicarbonate of soda. 

Edite - in the bowl

I tried mixing this together with a spatula but it was so thick, the tip came off the handle! So I switched to a nice sturdy wooden spoon and it came together nicely.

Edited - step 3

Finally, I added the chocolate chips before spooning the mixture into my dish (9×9 inch pan) which I had lined with baking paper.

Edited - in the pan

I popped the dish into my pre-heated oven on 190 degrees celsius.  I checked the bake after 15 minutes and re-set the timer for another 5 minutes.  I then checked it again and decided to give it another 3 minutes.  When I inserted my skewer it wasn’t coming out completely clean but the coating was melted chocolate rather than uncooked batter so I decided it was done.

I left the brownie to cool in the tin for 10 minutes before popping it onto a cooling rack to cool completely.   I then chopped it up into squares and packed the brownies up to take round to my friend’s for the evening.

Edited - cooling Edited - chopped up

Dave and I spent the evening with our friends Matt and Helen, where we enjoyed a beautifully cooked lasagne and a homemade victoria sponge cake made with lemon curd and a coconut topping – all courtesy of Helen. 

Helen is a keen baker, a celiac and a chocaholic making her the perfect taster for my gluten free brownies.  The verdict – a success. 

We all enjoyed these little chocolate treats; even Dave who had turned his nose up at the idea of potato in a brownie (he didn’t believe me when I tried to tell him all brownies have potato in! hehe).  The peanut butter added a really nice flavour to the brownies and I will definitely be making these again!

Edited - served up 2

Coming up next, Challenge No. 26 – chilli con carne.


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.