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Waitrose Summer Cupcake Mix Review

With the London 2012 Olympics well underway now, we’re right in the midst of the Great British Summer.  2012 has given us  the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, the Euro Cup Football, and now the Olympics.  What it hasn’t given us is good weather (insert sad face here). Even though this summer’s weather has been absolutely dismal, it’s been great to see how the residents of the UK have really come together to celebrate everything British.

Over the past few months I’ve seen loads of new British themed products released.  Some were traditional favourites, some were never seen before, and others were a perfect blend of old and new.


Waitrose has released two new cupcake mixes to help celebrate this years festivities.  They mixes are a fun twist on two British summertime classics – Eton Mess, and Bucks Fizz.  If you’re not from the UK, then you may not be familiar with either of those, so let me clarify. Eton Mess is a delicious dessert that takes fresh cut strawberries and crushed meringues and blends them together with sweetened whipping cream.  It’s delicious!  I made my own version of Eton Mess a few years ago, and you can get the recipe here.  And as for Bucks Fizz, it’s just the British version of what North American’s call a Mimosa – aka: Champagne and Orange Juice.


These cupcake mixes are a similar concept to the cake mix bags Waitrose released last summer (you can see my review of them here).  They’re a bit different than a regular Betty Crocker mix.  With these, the ingredients are already pre-measured for you which is great if you’re short on time, or preparing for a party and want to keep the mess to a minimum.  Also included in the box were the cupcake cases (as pictured on the box) which was a nice surprise, because they were actually very good quality and a nice design.  Unfortunately when the cake mix was sent to me the boxes arrived quite badly squished, and so did the cupcake cases.  The cases that came with the Eton Mess cupcakes were too badly squished for me to use them, but I managed to find some similar ones in my “collection”, although they weren’t as nice a quality as the ones that were included with the mix.

Both cupcake mixes do require you to add in a few ingredients of your own, just as you would a regular cake mix.  


The Bucks Fizz cupcakes called for the addition of the juice and zest of an orange, as well as an egg and some butter.  Also included in the mix was the icing sugar needed to make the icing, some candied orange peel and some popping candy to simulate the bubble in the champagne.  Unfortunately the popping candy in my mix must have had some moisture leak into it because it was just 2 big solid lumps of candy fused together.


The final result was a very moist cupcake with chunks of candied orange peel, and a lightly orange flavoured icing with additional chunks of candied peel and freshly grated zest.  I really liked these cupcakes, and I think with the addition of the popping candy they would really would have been excellent.  I was a little skeptical that there wouldn’t be enough icing for the cupcakes, but it made just the right amount.


The Eton Mess cupcakes were a strawberry cupcake with real bits of dried strawberry in them – no fakeness or artificial flavours – bonus!  The addition of an egg and some butter turned the strawberry mix into a very moist and delicious sponge that really allowed for the strawberry flavour to shine through.  Also included with the mix was a small packet of raspberry jam and some mini meringue pieces to sprinkle on the cupcakes that are topped with freshly whipped cream that you supply yourself.


Although I really liked both of these cupcakes, I did prefer the Eton Mess ones but would have preferred for the jam that was included to be strawberry rather than raspberry. I actually thought the raspberry jam tasted a bit chemically.


Overall I thought the new Eton Mess and Bucks Fizz cupcake mixes from Waitrose were excellent.  My only points of criticism (aside from the raspberry jam) would be a) that each mix only makes 6 cupcakes, and b) the price – at £3 per mix, these cupcake mixes are fairly expensive when compared to the other boxed mixes that make 18 – 24 cupcakes.  On the other hand, the £3 price tag (equivalent to £0.50 per cupcake) seems like a bargain when you compare it to the tins of Williams and Sonoma and Sprinkles cupcake mixes that I saw while on holiday in Canada which sold for $22 CDN + tax for a 12 cupcake mix (equivalent to more than $1.83 CDN (£1.18) per cupcake!).


So, would I buy these mixes again?  Probably. They’re great if you’re in a time crunch and are looking for a unique cupcake flavour to impress your friends and family.  You also don’t need to buy a large amount of ingredients that you might not use again (like the candied orange peel or meringue pieces).  I’d also recommend them to friends and family that aren’t really in to baking much.  If you really enjoy baking and experimenting with new recipes like I do, then you may just prefer to come up with your own Eton Mess or Bucks Fizz cupcake recipe from scratch.


If I was ranking these out of 5 stars, I’d give these 4.5

Edible Olympic Torch Cone Cakes

There’s been a great deal of excitement building up around the world, and here in the UK – especially in the London area as the city and it’s residents get ready to host the 2012 Olympic Games.  


I’ve always been a big fan of the Olympics.  There’s just something about them that allows me to get sucked into the hype and watch sports that I would never normally watch, and get really genuinely excited about them. Like the Triple Jump or the Canoe Slalom.  I mean really – who watches those on a regular basis? It seemed like the hype and excitement around the Olympics in the past few weeks leading up to today wasn’t as high as I had anticipated it to be, but as the Olympic torch made it’s way closer and closer to London the excitement did seem to build.  
 

Last Friday the torch relay past through the town where I live (a 30 minute train ride outside of London).  Although I was working and not able to watch it in person, my husband and son were front and centre while it made it’s way down a street near our home.  My husband took the photo above as the torch bearer ran past them.  

I think it’s pretty cool to know that the Olympic flame above is the same flame that was originally lit way back in May in Athens Greece, and that it has past from torch to torch without ever going out.
 

I created some fun little edible torches in honour of the Olympic flame making it’s way through Greece and the UK, and into the Opening Ceremonies tonight where it will burn brightly above the city of London for all the world to see for the duration of the Olympics.

These edible torches are made with mini ice cream cones that I picked up a couple weeks ago while on holiday in Canada.  I filled them with cake ball mixture and sprayed them with edible gold lustre spray before topping them off with a buttercream flame.  Pretty cute huh!?


Edible Olympic Torches

20 mini ice cream cones
9 inch round cake (baked), chocolate or flavour of your choice (equivalent to half of a boxed cake mix)
3 – 4 Tbsp chocolate icing (I like to use pre-made icing because it holds up better in the summer heat)

Edible Gold Lustre Spray

1 1/2 cups white buttercream icing
Red, orange and yellow food colourings
Piping bag
Large star tip nozzle
1.  Crumble your cake into a large bowl, and add in 3-4 tablespoons of icing. Mix together until they’re well combined, and form a dough like consistency.
2.  Form a small amount of the cake dough into a cone shape, and push it inside the mini ice cream cone so that it’s flush with the top of the cone.  Repeat until all of the cake dough and cones are used.
3.  Line the cones up on a cutting board, cake side down and spray with edible gold lustre spray making sure to coat the entire cone so that it’s nice and golden. Set aside and let dry.

4.  Divide your white buttercream in half.  Tint the first  half orange, and divide the second half into two.  Tint half of the second half yellow, and the other half red.  Imagine that the inside of your piping bag has 4 sides.  Coat 2 opposite sides with the orange icing, and coat the other sides with the red and yellow icing.  The majority of your piping bag will be filled with orange icing, while one quarter will be filled with red, and the other with yellow. 

Pipe the multi-coloured buttercream swirls onto the tops of your cake filled cones to create mini torches.
I used an black food marker to write 2012 on some of my cones.

If you’re planning on having an Olympic viewing party these torch cones would make the perfect addition.  If you’re not able to find the mini ice cream cones, you can make similar golden torch cupcake cones by baking the cake directly in a regular size flat bottom ice cream cone.  When they’re done baking simply spray the cones gold and ice them using the same steps as above.
I’ll be watching tonight’s Opening ceremonies and celebrating with a few of these edible torches.  I can’t wait to see what the next two weeks have in store for us, and I’ll be cheering on both team Canada and team GB.  We’re going to try and get out tomorrow to watch the road cycling race which will pass the area near we live.  How exciting! 
How will you be celebrating the games?  Do you have any viewing parties planned?  Have you been lucky enough to get tickets to an event? 
I’ve got another Olympic themed dessert in the works, so keep watching for it!

Queens Diamond Jubilee Hat Cookies


When I was living in Canada I was always a little envious of our patriotic American neighbours.    To many outsiders their patriotic enthusiasm seemed overly excessive and brash, but as a Canadian kid I looked on in amazement.  They took any opportunity they could get to plaster their flag on anything and everything, and I often wondered why Canadians didn’t do the same. 

The patriotic differences really became apparent when July rolled around.  Canada celebrates their birthday with a national holiday on July 1st, while the US celebrates theirs on July 4th.  The Americans always seemed to have loads of festive activities going on like parades, barbecues, block parties and amazing firework shows, while Canadians seemed relatively unfazed by their national day.  Don’t get me wrong – Canadians definitely do celebrate Canada Day with a few fireworks and the odd picnic, and as Vancouver showed during the Olympics, Canadians are extremely proud of their country, but we don’t always shout about it from the rooftops like our southern neighbours do.  

Some of the patriotic things that always caught my eye were all the fun American themed desserts and products that seemed to pop up during the weeks approaching July 4th.  A large part of it I’m sure, was a result of savvy marketing, but the other part was down to sheer patriotism.  

I remember flipping through magazines (most of the magazines were American) and watching programmes like Live! and Martha Stewart and thinking how pretty the desserts and crafts that they were featuring looked in red, white and blue.  For some reason red and white (Canada’s colours) never seemed as much fun.  

With the upcoming Queen’s Diamond Jubilee (marking the 60 year reign of Queen Elizabeth) in a few weeks, it appears that the whole of the UK has gone jubilee crazy.  And I couldn’t be more excited about it!  It’s such a nice feeling to see Union Jacks everywhere – on grocery packaging, home decor, magazines and loads and loads of CAKES! 

It’s so nice to see the whole country getting excited about their heritage and celebrating it with a little red, white and blue.  And I especially love it because it’s the perfect excuse for me to do some fun and festive baking – just like I always wished I could have done when I was younger!

I’ve come up with a few Jubilee themed desserts – one of them was this Jubilee Dome Cake with red and blue flowers and a golden crown that I posted last week.  


I’ve also made these little Jubilee hat cookies inspired by the Queen herself!  It’s no secret that the Queen is a fan of her hats – they even took bets here in England on what colour hat she would wear to Will and Kate’s wedding last year!  

I got the original idea for these cookies from the fabulous book Cookie Swap, and then borrowed a few tips from Bakerella who also made them a couple years ago for Easter.  

I loved making these cookies – they were so fun and easy to make, and I really think they’re just perfect to help celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.  Seriously – how cute would they  look alongside a nice cup of tea, or arranged together on a stand at your local street party.

Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Hat Cookies

To make these cookies you’ll need a few things:


Sugar cookie dough – I use Peggy Porcshen’s recipe that can be found in this post here.
A small amount of Royal Icing – Peggy Porcshen’s recipe that can be found in this post here.
Double sided pastry cutters – I used these.  
Mini flower plunger cutters – I used these
White fondant – I used white Renshaw brand
Sugar paste / flower paste – I used Squires Kitchen Sugar Floral Paste
White nonpareils 

Instructions:

1.  Make your sugar cookie dough according to the recipe and instructions here.  Once your dough is chilled, roll it out to the appropriate thickness (about 4 or 5mm).  Using the scalloped edge of the 68mm (2 5/8″) round pastry cutter, cut out as many circles as you think you’d like hats.  These will be the base of your hats.  I think you could make at least 20 hats with the cookie dough recipe – probably more.  Next, use the 38mm (1 1/2″) plain edged round cutter to cut out twice the number of circles as you did with the scalloped cutter.  These will make up the top of your hats, and each hat top requires two smaller circles. Bake according to the instructions in my original recipe post, and then cool.

2.  While your cookies are baking you can start to make the little sugar paste flowers that will decorate the brim of the hats.  Take a small amount of the Sugar Floral Paste and tint it whatever colour you’d like – I used Wilton gel paste colours.  Roll the sugar paste out, and use the flower cutters to cut out various sizes of flowers. It’s easy – honest!  I used some royal icing to attach the white nonpareils to the inside of the flower, but if you don’t have any nonpareils, then a dab of royal icing will do just fine. Set the flowers aside to dry.

3.  Once your cookies are nice and cool you’ll need to start building your hats.  First you’ll need to roll our your fondant, and use the same sized scalloped edge pastry cutter you used for the base of the cookies to cut out the fondant circles that will sit on top.  Use the end of a paintbrush or chopstick to make small indents around the scalloped edge.  Put a little royal icing on the scalloped cookies and then place the matching fondant pieces on top making sure to line up the scalloped edges.

To make the second part of the hat you’ll need to glue two of the smaller circles together by adding a dab or two of royal icing on the top of one of the small circles.  Next, use another dollop of royal icing to fix the bottom of the smaller stacked circle to the scalloped fondant covered cookie base.  Using the small cookie cutter, cut out enough fondant circles to cover the tops of the smaller circle stacks.  


Next you’ll need to cut some fondant strips to wrap around the stack of small cookies – use a small ruler to make sure the fondant strip is the same width as the cookie stacks, and long enough to wrap around them.  Fix the strips around the cookies using royal icing.  Use your fingers to smooth out the fondant strips and blend them into the fondant tops.

Lastly, it’s time to add your sugar paste flowers – simply glue them on in whatever arrangement you like, and there you have it – little Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Hats!


I’m sure it’s pretty safe to say that these hat cookies will likely end up inside your tummy – but I’d really like to know what’s happened to all of the Queen’s own hats?  Seriously – Buckingham Palace must have one gigantic room filled with 60 years worth of the Queen’s hats!


Because my hat cookies have flowers on them, I’m also sending them over to The Tea Time Treats monthly challenge hosted this month by Karen of the blog Lavender and Loveage, and other months by Kate of What Kate Baked.  This month’s theme is floral, so I think they’re a perfect fit!