April's Pastry Challenge Round-Up! {chocolate}

As April comes to an end so does my first month of hosting The Pastry Challenge! It was fun seeing the entries that came in. I was impressed by the skill and creativity of the entries for this month's theme chocolate.

Chocolate is one of the most common ingredients used in baking. As it pairs so well with other flavors it makes it a great addition to any bake! Enough of me rambling let's have a look at the delicious creations that this month's Pastry Challenge has brought us!  

As Easter was at the beginning of the month our first entry really celebrated the holiday with these amazing Chocolate Egg Basket Tartelettes. I am so impressed with the skill involved. Go check out Margot Dolewska Dyer’s site Coffee and Vanilla for more of her amazing creations!

Then we had a very colorful and fun entry with Nazima Pathan’s Homemade Berry and Chocolate Pop Tarts! She blogs over on FranglaisKitchen where there are plenty more recipes like these to inspire you! I know they have inspired me!

My co-host Jen at Jen’s Food had a go with choux pastry and made these impressive Chocolate Religieuses! She says she’s frozen some so planning to head over one day soon to have a taste!

Then entering just at the end was Xi from Where Baking andScience Come Together with her Choux a la crème or as we more commonly know them, profiteroles. They look delicious with that dark chocolate glaze!

And last but not least check out my Double ChocolateStrawberry Mini Tarts!

Be sure to visit Jen’s site in May for the new theme and linky post!! 
I hope you can all join us as we continue our pastry journey’s! 

Five WWII Books {Five on Friday}

Yesterday was World Book Night and as a giver for the fourth year I had a great time giving out books! I gave the majority to moms and dads on the school ground. They are the worst culprits for saying they have no time to read. Everyone I talked to say they would try there best to start reading despite their “busy” schedules.

I say “busy” because we are all busy. It’s all about our priorities and where I appreciate that reading a book isn't everyone’s first priority I do believe it is a past time that everyone should attempt whenever they can.

In my last post I am running a giveaway for a copy of my World Book Night book Custard Tarts and Broken Hearts by Mary Gibson. So, head over there and enter all you have to do is follow the instructions in the rafflecopter gadget.

I have read all of these books! I laughed and cried and lived in another time in different ways with each of these books. I couldn't recommend them more! 

Custard Tarts and Broken Hearts is about life and love in England during WWI. If you’re looking for something to read after such a great book then here are my five WWII recommendations. If you haven’t read Custard Tarts and Broken Hearts but are interested in fictional and non-fictional books on WWII these are worth a look!

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

synopsis: (from the front flap) ***HERE IS A SMALL FACT*** You are going to die 1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier. Liesel, a nine-year-old girl, is living with a foster family on Himmel Street. Her parents have been taken away to a concentration camp. Liesel steals books. This is her story and the story of the inhabitants of her street when the bombs begin to fall. . .

The Story Teller by Jodi Picoult

synopsis: For seventy years, Josef Weber has been hiding in plain sight. He is a pillar of his local community. He is also a murderer. When Josef decides to confess, it is to Sage Singer, a young woman who trusts him as her friend. What she hears shatters everything she thought she knew and believed.
As Sage uncovers the truth from the darkest horrors of war, she must follow a twisting trail between terror and mercy, betrayal and forgiveness, love - and revenge.

Life after Life by Kate Atkinson

synopsis: What if you had the chance to live your life again and again, until you finally got it right? During a snowstorm in England in 1910, a baby is born and dies before she can take her first breath. During a snowstorm in England in 1910, the same baby is born and lives to tell the tale.
What if there were second chances? And third chances? In fact an infinite number of chances to live your life? Would you eventually be able to save the world from its own inevitable destiny? And would you even want to? Life After Life follows Ursula Todd as she lives through the turbulent events of the last century again and again.

Clara Vine series:

synopsis - Black Roses: 1933. War is in the air. And in Berlin one woman is torn between love, loyalty and duty… Clara Vine is young and ambitious, and determined to succeed as an actress. A chance meeting in London leads her to Berlin, to the famous Ufa studios and, unwittingly, into an uneasy circle of Nazi wives, among them Magda Goebbels.

synopsis - The Winter Garden: Berlin. 1937. The city radiates glamour and ambition. But danger lurks in every shadow… Anna Hansen, a bride-to-be, is a pupil at ne of Hitler’s notorious Nazi Bride Schools, where young women are schooled on the art of being an SS officer’s wife. Then, one night, she is brutally murdered and left in the gardens of the school.

synopsisA War of Flowers: August, 1938. Paris is a city living on its nerves and the threat of war hangs heavy as a distant thunderstorm on a summer’s day…With war becoming increasingly likely, Clara is approached by an undercover British operative, Guy Hamilton, who askes her to perform a task for her country: to befriend Eva Braun, Hitler’s girlfriend, and to pass on any information she can gather.

The Endless Steppe (non-fiction) by Esther Hautzig

synopsis: Esther Rudomin was ten years old when, in 1941, she and her family were arrested by the Russians and transported to Siberia. This is the true story of the next five years spent in exile, of how the Rudomins kept their courage high, though they went barefoot and hungry.

I had a great World Book Night! I love talking about books with readers and non-readers alike and I love sharing the gift of books. However I am always looking for new book recommendations! If you have any book reviews on your blog please link up here! They can be old or new and they can be fiction or non-fiction. It can be a cookbook or children’s book. Any book review can be linked up! 

The only rules are: Please only link up to 5 different posts and please visit and comment on the link before yours! If you want to visit and comment on more then that please do! And if you have a minute please share this linky on any of your social media sites! It is optional not a must! If you tag me (@unitedcakedom) on twitter or instagram I will try my best to like/retweet/comment!

notes: images were used from amazon and synopsis' were taken from the back and front flaps of the books. If you didn't see my previous post on World Book Night check it out here! I bought all of these books except A War of Flowers which was given to me in a giveaway. All opinions are my own! 

Broken Heart Custard Tarts for World Book Night

“This book is a gift. You can keep it or pass it on, but we think you should try it. Because everything changes when we read.” (Quoted from the back of a World Book Night edition) Everything does change when you read. Books can take you places you've never been and give you experiences you never dreamed of! 

It’s World Book Night and it is the fourth year I have been chosen as a book giver! As World Book Night is a day that encourages children to read, World Book Night is a night that encourages young adults and adults to read. Each year there are about 20 titles that givers can ask to give away. This year was full of books I have already read and made it really hard to list my top three choices.

When I got the email that informed me that I was to give Custard Tarts and Broken Hearts by Mary Gibson I was thrilled. I had read it over last summer and really enjoyed it. The characters are real and the atmosphere is set to a pre-war England 1911; Mary Gibson makes you feel like you’re there. You feel for Nell and the other Custard Tarts as they get through what really were tough times.

In celebration of this book I made my very own custard tarts. I used custard powder just to stick with the theme of the book. The girls were called custard tarts because they worked at a factory that packaged powdered custard! Then I topped them some demera sugar and caramelized it so that you had to “break” through it to eat the tart. The heart shaped tart tins gave a nice touch too!

Broken Heart Custard Tarts:

Pastry: 225g plain flour; 110g unsalted butter, chilled and cubed; 80g golden caster sugar; 1 large egg; to make: Rub the butter into the flour before adding the sugar and egg. Bring the dough together with your hands and form a ball. Wrap in cling film and chill for a minimum of 30 minutes. Grease your tart tins. Roll out the chilled pastry on a lightly flour dusted surface. Cut out pieces of the dough and line each tart tin. Prick with a fork and chill in the fridge again for 20-30 minutes. Heat the oven to 170C. Line and fill each tart with parchment paper and baking beans. Blind bake for 12 minutes or so. Take out the baking beans and bake for a further 10-15 minutes until the tart case is lightly browned. Leave to cool down while you make the custard. 

Bird's Custard Powder; to make Follow instructions on package for 1 pint of custard. Helpful hint that you pour the warmed milk onto the custard paste and add more or less sugar according to taste.

To Finish:
12-18 tablespoons of demera sugar

Fill each tart with custard and leave a little rim of tart case. Sprinkle 2-3 tablespoons of sugar onto each tart and then put under a hot grill for a few minutes until it starts to turn golden or use a blow torch to melt the sugar into a nice hard topping. Enjoy! 

As a lover of books I like to find ways of sharing that love! I have already given out more then half of my books this morning to friends and complete strangers! But I have set aside one of my copies to give to one of my readers! Just follow the instructions on the raffelcopter gadget below! It’s only open for a week so enter now!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

notes: I was chosen as a World Book Night giver. World BookNight is an annual celebration of reading and books that takes place on the 23rd of April. The giveaway is only for me to spread the love of reading further then I can do by giving them out to people in my community. Which I also love doing!
If you liked this post then you might like: My Summer Reading List, My Spring Reading List, World Book Night posts one, two, and three! Wonka Bars, Forgotten Pudding, Zebra Cake, Huffkins, Pop Cakes

White Chocolate Chip Fruity Brioche Muffins

Perhaps I should call them Bruffins or something? Start a new mash-up trend! Mash-up’s are fun, but what makes a mash-up? This is brioche made in a muffin tin and therefore looks like a muffin. It also has common muffin ingredients like the chocolate chips and dried fruit. Works for me as a mash-up, however, I will still call it a Chocolate Chip Fruity Brioche Muffin. No, bruffins here! Or worse Muioche’s … not even sure how one would pronounce that.

Also I am sure somewhere out there in the foodie world someone else has made brioche in their muffin pan/tin way before me. In this world of food it’s hard to be completely original.

Inspiration comes from everywhere. A recipe I found in a magazine a couple years ago inspired these brioche muffins. As I become a more confident baker I am able to change and adapt recipes to suit my tastes and needs.

 It was this recipe clipping and my recent baking day with my friend Jen, fellow baker and blogger, that encouraged me to make these deliciously light, chocolaty, and fruity brioche muffins!

They were loved and enjoyed by everyone who tried one, which was me, my daughters, me, one of the neighbors, and me again…. Sweetbreads are dangerous in this house!

To bring the danger to yours here’s how I made them. I used a stand mixer, but you don’t need one.

White Chocolate Chip Fruity Brioche Muffins

100g mixed dried fruit; cranberries, cherries, blueberries, strawberries
1-2 tsp vodka (or juice)
500g ‘00’ flour, sifted
100g golden caster sugar
2 x7g sachets fast action yeast
pinch of salt
200ml milk, gently warmed
3 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
150g unsalted butter, very soft and cubed
100g white chocolate chips
100g white chocolate, melted

Soak the dried fruit in vodka or juice and set aside. Sift the flour directly in the stand mixer bowl or in a large bowl and add the sugar, yeast, and a pinch of salt. Be sure to put the salt and yeast on separate sides of the bowl. Salt can kill the yeast.
In a jug combine the milk, which should be warm to the touch you don’t want it too hot as it too could kill the yeast, too cold and it won’t work either, gently whisk in the eggs and vanilla extract. Attach the dough hook and start mixing on low. Slowly add the liquid mixture. Use a wooden spoon to first bring the mixture together before kneading by hand. Mix in the mixer for 10 minutes, knead for about 10 minutes give or take a few minutes. It should be soft and stringy.
While the mixer is still running or while you’re kneading slowly add the butter cube by cube. Make sure each cube is completely incorporated before adding the next. The dough should look glossy. Place in a lightly greased bowl, cover with a clean damp towel and leave to rise for one hour or until doubled in size.

Lightly grease each muffin indent with butter. Once the dough has risen gently knock it back, still in the bowl, by pressing your fist into it. Dust the counter top with a little bit of flour before turning out the dough onto the surface and give it another knock or two before folding in the dried fruit and chocolate chips.
Divide the dough into 12 pieces and using your fingertips fold each dough piece into a little ball before dropping into the prepared muffin tin/pan indents. Cover again with a clean damp towel, I used shot glasses to prop up the towel so it wasn't resting directly on the pan. Leave for an hour a little more or less until the dough has doubled in size.

Heats the oven to 190C, once heated bake the brioche muffins for 20-25 minutes until toasty brown on the top. They should feel slightly hollow when tapped.

Melt the white chocolate in your preferred melting method, either in a heatproof bowl over simmering water or in the microwave, be sure to check in 5 or 10 second intervals. Gently spoon the melted chocolate over the cooled brioche muffins.

notes: this recipe is adapted from Jamie Magazine issue 44 December 2013. 
These Brioche Muffins have been entered in these challenges:
Bready Steady Go – hosted by Jen's Food with Utterly Scrummy 
Recipe Clippings – with Farmersgirl Kitchen
ABC Bakes – hosted by Caroline Makes with the more than occasional baker (brought to us by the letter 'B'. B is for Brioche) 

Double Chocolate Strawberry Mini Tarts

This month’s Pastry Challenge is chocolate! The possibilities of a chocolate and pastry combination are endless! When faced with a lot of different choices the only way to narrow it down is to figure out what it is you want.

First I knew I wanted a chocolate pastry and a fresh fruit. So, I started looking through blogs and books for different options.

Then the chocolate and cherry tart I made in February kept coming to mind…but it was too dark for the beautiful weather we've been having. Then I knew I wanted something light and springy!

That’s why this chocolate short crust pastry with a white chocolate ganache and fresh strawberries came to exist. Since chocolate can be so rich it made sense to make these tarts little or mini. It makes the perfect chocolaty bite, without being too rich and sickly. We all love chocolate, but let’s be honest it can too much sometimes!

These would make a great spring teatime treat! So, let’s get baking…

Chocolate Short Crust Pastry

200g flour
25g cocoa powder
50g icing sugar
350g unsalted butter, cold & cubed
3 egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla extract

Sift the flour, cocoa, and sugar together and gently rub in the butter so that the mixture looks like breadcrumbs. Try not to touch it too much because you want to keep the butter from melting. Add the egg yolks and vanilla; mix together until you get a soft dough. Form into a ball and smoosh it down a little so it’s disk like. Then rest in the fridge for at least 30 minutes or over night.

Just before you take out of the fridge grease your mini tart pan or tart tins with soft butter. Sprinkle a little flour on the counter before rolling out the pastry - rotate every other roll to get a nice circle. You don’t want it too thin or too thick, but use your own judgment based on your tart tins. Then cut out circles somewhat bigger then your tart tins, you want the over hang. Presses gently into your pan/tin getting the pastry down into the corners, and carefully trim the excess dough off.

*If you are making little ones like these you will have extra pastry. There are two options either freezing it for a couple of months or make a double batch! Cover with cling film and rest in the fridge for at least 15 minutes. I left them in for about 45 minutes.

Heat the oven to 180C. Once it’s at temperature take the pan/tin out of the fridge. Using a fork put holes in pastry. Place a piece of grease proof paper in each, I cut out individual circles, and fill with baking beads press down to make sure they are holding the pastry down. Bake for 8-10 minutes, then remove the baking beads and bake for a further 5-8 minutes or until it looks dried out. I don’t know how else to describe it, because with chocolate pastry it won’t be brown. Cool for a few minutes before filling with the ganache and strawberry!

White Chocolate Ganache

50-100g white chocolate, broken up
50-100g double cream
20 or more fresh strawberries

The varied amount is due to your tart tin/pan size. You might need more or less. These ones used only about 50g of each. Place an equal amount of both ingredients in a heatproof bowl over a simmering pan of water. Stir until melted. Fill each tart case and top with a fresh strawberry!

notes: chocolate pastry recipe is adapted from Eric Lanlard’s Tart it Up! and can also be found online on The Telegraph’s website. Use up the egg whites making meringues!

These tarts were entered into these challenges:
The Pastry Challenge (theme chocolate) hosted by myself with Jen's Food 
Tea Time Treats (theme chocolate) hosted by Lavender and Lovage with The Hedge Combers 
Treat Petite (theme spring time) hosted by The Baking Explorer with Cakeyboi 

Five Ways to Use Betty Crocker Box Mixes {five on Friday}

Recently I was sent a variety of Betty Crocker box mixes to use in my baking. Every time I make something with a box mix I am worried about those “only from scratch” bakers getting on my case. However, I do use a box mix from time to time and have written about it on United Cakedom several times before.

There are a couple of reasons why I, an avid baker, would choose a cake mix. First there is very little you can do to mess it up and therefore is a good choice when in a pinch. Secondly cakes made from box mixes always turn out fluffy and soft and taste good so make great bases for special toppings or fillings.

Besides all that there are other ways to use cake, brownie, or cookie mixes and here are my five favorite ways: 

Bundt Cakes:

Using a stylish baking tin is always a way to dress up you cake mix. To Make: Follow the instructions on the box and add a 150g or a ½ cup of peanut butter to the batter. Make sure that the bundt is properly greased and floured before baking. Bake time will be a little longer then the time on the box, but it depends on shape and your oven. So, set the timer for the suggested time. Check the cake and if it’s not cooked add another 10 minutes, if it’s still not cooked add another five and continue adding five until it’s completely done. Use the skewer test to be sure. Leave to cool in the bundt pan for at least 10 minutes before gently tapping it out. Then glaze it! For a Peanut Butter Glaze (pictured): Whisk 250g/1 ½ cups icing sugar, 60ml/ ¼ cup milk, 75g/ ¼ cup peanut butter, and  ½ tsp vanilla extract together until combined. Pour over the top of the cake. Sprinkle 1 or 2 squares of dark chocolate very finely chopped over the top.


This is one of those obvious reasons, but cupcakes are always a crowd pleaser and there is so much to make cupcakes fancy or fun! I made these on my recent visit to my parent’s house in America. I used a Betty Crocker Red Velvet Cake Mix to make cupcakes and stuffed a limited edition Red Velvet Oreos in the middle before topping with a Cookies and Cream Frosting. To Make: make the cake batter according to box instructions. Fill the bottom of each cupcake case with a tablespoon of batter, then place an Oreo on top of the batter in each case, top each Oreo with the rest of the batter (about 3-4 tablespoons). Crush up any leftover Oreos and mix in the frosting for a delicious cookies and cream frosting! note: Since these Oreo’s don’t exist here in the UK feel free to use regular Oreos in any flavor cake!

Red Velvet Brownies:

These make a more cake like brownie, but are chewier which is how I like them! To Make: Heat the oven to 180C/350F; line a square tin with grease proof paper. Mix 1 box of red velvet cake mix; 60ml/ ¼ cup vegetable oil (or sunflower); 75ml/ 1/3 cup water; 1 egg together until combined. Add 100g white chocolate chunks and pour into the prepared tin. Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes. Once cool cover with Betty Crocker’s Vanilla Icing and Rainbow Sprinkle frosting.

Cake Batter Cookies:

Sally’s Baking Addiction blog’s most popular post is for her Cake Batter Sprinkle Cookies. I adjusted her recipe to suit a UK market. To Make: Sift 1 (450g) Betty Crocker Classic Vanilla Cake Mix and 1 tsp baking powder into a bowl. In a separate bowl beat 2 eggs, 75ml/1/3 cup sunflower oil, and ½ tsp vanilla extract. Add the wet mixture to the dry mixture and stir until combined. Heat the oven to 180C/350F and line the baking sheet with greaseproof paper. Form one-inch balls with the cookie dough and place on the baking sheet leaving space between each dough ball. Place a few chocolate chunks in the cookie dough. Bake for 9 minutes. Don’t let the cookies go brown, take them out and let them cool on the baking sheet for a few minutes before moving to a cooling rack. They will look pale and under baked, but they will harden while cooling. note: want red velvet cookies? Use Betty Crocker’s Red Velvet Cake Mix and white chocolate chips!

Brownie Bites:

Brownies are already smooshy so they are a lot easier to make then cake pops (another great use for cake mix). To Make: Make brownies according to the box instructions. Once they are cool enough to touch break some up and roll it into about a 1-2 inch ball. Cover in melted chocolate or candy melts. Decorate however you want! Check out the time my sister made Golden Snitch Brownie Bites!(picture above)

If you like this post you might like:     

notes: cake mixes were provided for this post all opinions are my own please see above tab for further information. 

Five Reasons for Working Unsocial Hours

When my youngest started reception or kindergarten last September it was time for me to venture out into the working world again. When I decided to stay at home I left a job, not a career. So, I picked up another job that has me working 4am-8am 3 days a week.

Here are my reasons for loving my part-time unsocial hour job!

Most people gasp and exclaim they could never get up that early to go to work and I believe them. It takes a special type of person to work those crazy hours and by special I mean good-humored. Which are what all my co-workers are and I love them all for it.

Family Life:
Even though I am ready for the working world again, I still have a young family. My girls will always come first. For the same reasons I stayed at home with them is the same reasons I choose to have a job that allows me to pick them up from school and have dinner with them and put them to bed.

My Time:
Since I finish work early from starting early I still have my whole day. I don’t nap because it would mess with my bedtime. The girls are at school and I am free to have coffee with friends or bake or read or what usually happens laundry!

People or Lack of:
Unsociable hours mean you only have co-workers to deal with. Not having to deal with the public so to speak is always a bonus in my book!

Stress Free:
I go in I do what I need to do and then I leave. It’s not a job that comes home with me or stresses me out. I might be a bit tired and if you ask my husband a little crabby by the end of my three days, but there is little to no stress involved. With all the other stresses of life, I am thankful my job isn't one of them.

One day I will find a way to make a career out of doing what I love. Supposing I ever find something I love enough to make a career out of it! I have so many things I enjoy to do, but sometimes I like the separation of a job and the things I like doing!

Hope everyone has a great weekend!! 

Love, Chocolate #thepastrychallenge April Link-Up

April Showers bring May Flowers or so the saying goes. This "saying" is the reason I always stuck up for rain. It has such a bad rep. especially here in England.

We need rain. Without it we wouldn't have food or pretty things like flowers and green foliage! It should be worshiped and idolized for bringing us these things. Also for giving us a reason to stay in and relax in our sweats with a hot drink and chocolate.

Yes, another excuse to eat chocolate, like we need one of those! However I am about to give you another very good and valid reason to eat chocolate. This month's Pastry Challenge!! You probably already guessed it, but the theme is chocolate! 

In the tab above is a full overview of the new challenge but here are a few reminders of how it works!

First bake a pastry! Any you like and this month have it feature something chocolaty!

Second blog about it! Be sure to link back to both myself Lisa at United Cakedom (unitedcakedom.com) and Jen at Jen's Food (jensfood.co.uk)
If you tweet use the hashtag #thepastryhcallenge and be sure to include us @unitedcakedom & @JensFood
Please use the image above (right click and save) in your post as a way to help spread the word.
I will be adding the entries to the official Pastry Challenge Pinterest board as they come in, please follow along to see past, present, and future entries!

Lastly link it up below, following the instructions on the widget/gadget below.

A few reminders we are looking for new or re-posted posts following the instructions above. Feel free to enter more then one entry. Also if you have a few minutes check out the entry before yours and leave a comment! Any questions please feel free to contact either Jen or myself!

We look forward to seeing all your amazing chocolaty pastry creations!