Saturday, 10 March 2018

Gingerbread Cocoa Macarons

Ahhh it's been a while since I made macarons. Recently my boyfriend bought me the best gift of a kitchenaid stand mixer and yesterday I thought it was time to try out the beast :) Using a stand mixer saves a lot of effort when it comes to whisking the Italian meringue base of the macaron shells, and seemed to give a much better macaron mixture. That could be also because my handheld electric whisk is probably 10 years old (and was very cheap when I bought it then!).

In any case, I filled some of the chocolate macaron shells with a mocha ganache (as in my previous macaron recipe - see here), the perfect treat for any coffee lover.

However, I was feeling experimental and decided to spice up a buttercream with a blend of spices, predominantly ground ginger. After filling some shells with this filling, I tried one - and WOW, the filling had the essence of gingerbread, with the soft cocoa biscuit encasing the filling beautifully. These are a gift for my mum for mother's day and I just know she's going to love them!

The macaron shells can be frozen (once baked, but not filled), so you can make them in advance, then just defrost and fill them when required :)

Makes around 24 macarons (48 shells)


For the shells:
  • 150g (1 & 1/4 cups) ground almonds
  • 10g (1 & 1/2 tbsp) cocoa powder (the best quality you can afford)
  • 175g (1 & 1/2 cups) icing sugar
  • 4 (125ml/1/2 cup) medium egg whites
  • 165g (3/4 cup) granulated sugar
  • 50ml (3 tbsp and 1 tsp) water

For the filling:

  • 150g (2/3 cup) softened butter
  • 300g (3 cups) sifted icing sugar
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 - 2 tbsp milk


1. Place the ground almonds, cocoa and icing sugar in a food processor (or high power blender) and blitz for 2-3 second bursts, until the mixture is very fine and the cocoa is evenly distributed. Be careful not to blitz for too long as the almonds can turn to butter!

2. Sieve the almonds/cocoa/icing sugar into a large bowl. Add 2 of the egg whites, and beat until a smooth paste is formed.

3. Heat the granulated sugar and water in a saucepan, stirring occasionally until the sugar has dissolved. Then stop stirring and place a sugar thermometer in the pan. In a grease-free bowl, add the remaining two egg whites. Once the sugar/water has reached 112C, start whisking the egg whites at a medium speed (I used a stand mixer and found this required less of my attention than a hand held).

4. Once the sugar/water syrup has reached 118C, the egg whites should be white and frothy (like shaving foam). Turn the stand mixer down to a low speed, then carefully pour the syrup onto the egg whites, whisking constantly. Be very careful not to touch the syrup as it is super hot! Once all of the syrup has been added, turn up the speed of the mixer to high and keep whisking until the mixture is shiny and forms peaks when the whisk is lifted from the mixture (this should take between 5 and 7 minutes).

5. Use a metal spoon to fold a third of the egg white mixture into the almond/cocoa/sugar paste. Once incorporated, gently fold in the remaining egg whites.

6. Fill a piping bag with the macaron mixture, and cut off 1cm from the end (or use a large round nozzle). Grease and line four baking trays with parchment paper and hold the piping bag vertically above where you want to pipe. Pipe directly down onto the tray until you have a circle 3cm wide (or whatever shape you like - I also like making rectangles so that they look like mini eclairs). Repeat across the trays, leaving about 1&1/2cm gap between each macaron shell.

7. Tap the tray on the surface a few times, then leave at room temperature for 30 minutes to an hour, until a "skin" has formed on the macarons - this means that when you gently touch the macaron, no mixture goes on your finger.

8. Preheat the oven to 170c (150c fan)/ 340F/ gas mark 3. Before you place the baking trays into the oven, tap the trays against the surface again. This gives the perfect "foot" of a macarons. Bake the macarons for 10-12 minutes - keep an eye on them after 8 minutes in case they are browning too much. Remove the macarons from the oven and transfer the macarons (with the baking paper still attached) to a wire rack to cool.

9. To make the filling, cream the butter against the sides of a mixing bowl until it is very soft and spreadable. Add half of the icing sugar and beat in.

10. Add the remaining icing sugar, ground ginger, ground cinnamon, cayenne pepper and salt and start beating in. If the mixture is very stiff, add a splash of milk to loosen the mix. The buttercream needs to be thick enough that it holds it's shape when lifted from the bowl, but not so thick that it requires muscle power to move the buttercream around the bowl.

11. When the macaron shells have completely cooled, flip half of them over. Fill a piping bag with the spiced buttercream and pipe about a teaspoon of buttercream on each flipped shell.

12. Top each covered macaron shell with an uncovered shell and press down lightly.

13. These are best to eat at least 24 hours after sandwiching as the shells go very soft. However, they are still delicious straight after assembly! They should keep in an airtight container for around a week (they will get softer as time progresses).

14. Enjoy!

If you liked these, here are my other macaron recipes :)

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Tuesday, 27 February 2018

My Favourite Chocolate Cupcakes

These chocolate cupcakes are easily my favourite cupcake! The sponge is deeply chocolatey and stays incredibly moist due to the use of oil in the batter (rather than butter). I had a couple left after a week (after baking these, my boyfriend decided to cut down on the sweet stuff, and I hadn't managed to eat them all myself!) and the sponges hadn't dried up at all!

I topped the cupcakes with a chocolate buttercream - I'm normally not a huge fan of cocoa-based buttercreams as I don't find the flavour chocolatey enough for me. To make the perfect chocolate buttercream, therefore, I melted 50g of dark chocolate and added this to the buttercream. Wow, this is cupcake packs a chocolate-hit!! Just to make the cupcakes even better, I sprinkled the tops with some crushed cocoa nibs (but you could use chocolate sprinkles if you like).

Makes 12


For the cupcakes:

  • 100g (3/4 cup) plain flour
  • 40g (1/2 cup) cocoa powder (the best quality you can afford)
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 2 eggs
  • 100g (1/2 cup) caster sugar
  • 100g (1/2 cup + 2tsp) light soft brown sugar
  • 80ml (1/3 cup) vegetable oil
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 120ml (1/2 cup) milk (I used skimmed but I'm sure any milk would work well)
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • Pinch of salt

For the chocolate buttercream:

  • 50g (1/4 cup) dark chocolate (I used 55% cocoa solids)
  • 100g (2/5 cup) butter, softened
  • 200g (2 cups) icing sugar, sieved
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • Milk (to loosen the buttercream, you won't need more than a tbsp)
  • 1-2 tbsp cocoa nibs, crushed (or chocolate sprinkles) (optional)


1. Preheat your oven to 180c/350f/gas mark 4. Line a 12 hole muffin tin with cupcake cases.

2. Sift together the flour, cocoa, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda and set aside.

3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, caster sugar, brown sugar, vanilla, milk, lemon juice and salt for a few minutes until smooth.

4. Make a well in the centre of the flour mix and pour in the eggy mixture. Fold through until you have a very loose batter with no obvious lumps of flour.

5. Use an ice cream scoop to spoon batter into the cases so that they are half filled. Do not overfill them as they will rise up a lot!

6. Bake for around 20 minutes, until well risen, springy to the touch, and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Set aside to cool.

7. To make the buttercream, chop the dark chocolate finely and place in a bowl over a pan of simmering water (being careful that the bowl does not actually touch the water). Stir occasionally until the chocolate has melted, then set aside to cool for a few minutes (until it is hand hot).

8. Cream the butter against the sides of a mixing bowl until it is very soft and spreadable. Add half of the icing sugar and beat with a wooden spoon to dissolve the sugar. Add the other half of the icing sugar and melted dark chocolate and continue beating. It will be quite loose as the melted chocolate may melt some of the butter. Place in the fridge for 20 minutes to firm up to be able to be piped.

9. When ready to assemble, place a 1M piping nozzle into a piping bag and fill with the buttercream. If the buttercream has become overly stiff, add a splash of milk and beat.

10. Starting at the outside edge of a cupcake pipe a swirl towards the centre. This gives an ice-cream cone-like look that works well I think.

11. Sprinkle with cocoa nibs or chocolate sprinkles to finish (optional).

12. Enjoy!
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Sunday, 18 February 2018

Coconut Caramel Squares

Coconut Caramel Squares

Here's another refined sugar-free treat I love - no baking-required coconut and date squares, which I boosted with a caramel-flavoured protein powder, to give a real caramel/butterscotch taste. They are topped with a sugar-free chocolate glaze. Store them in your freezer and take as many squares as you want out when you need a delicious but healthy treat.

I used Myprotein speculoos (caramel biscuit) flavoured impact whey protein. I find all of their whey proteins excellent for baking as they aren't overly sweet, and they mix very well. If you can't get this, experiment with your favourite protein powder. If you really don't like protein powder, however, you don't need to use it. Instead, replace the protein powder with cocoa powder.

Makes 64 squares


For the bottom layer:

  • 170g (1 cup) dates
  • 40g (2 & 1/2 tbsp) crunchy peanut butter (no added sugar or salt)
  • 10ml (2 tsp) coconut oil, melted
  • 10g (2 tbsp) caramel flavoured protein powder
  • 50g (1/2 cup) desiccated coconut
  • pinch of salt
  • Oil spray, for greasing

For the top layer:

  • 10g (1 & 1/2 tbsp) cocoa powder
  • 10g (2 tbsp) caramel flavoured protein powder
  • 10ml (2 tsp) coconut oil, melted
  • 1 tsp granulated stevia (optional)


1. Lightly grease a 20cm cake tin (I used a silicon one) with the oil spray, and line with cling film. 

2. Blend the dates using a food processor or high powered blender. Pour into a mixing bowl and add the peanut butter, coconut oil, protein powder, desiccated coconut and salt. Beat until everything is well combined.

3. Pour into the cake tin and use the back of a spoon to smooth out the mixture over the base. It will be only a few mm thick. Place in freezer for 20 minutes to firm up.

4. For the topping, blend together the cocoa powder, protein powder and coconut oil. Test for sweetness (this will vary greatly depending on the protein powder of choice). Add stevia to sweeten the top layer if needed.

5. Pour the chocolate topping evenly over the base, gently smoothing over to cover the base fully. Place in the fridge for at least 30 minutes for the topping to firm up.

6. Cut into 2.5cm squares (split each row and column into 8) using a sharp knife, and place in an airtight container. Keep in the freezer until ready for a yummy treat :)

7. Enjoy!

20 calories per square

Coconut Caramel Squares

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