November 16, 2015

When the holiday season rolls round, we’re all about the sweet treats. From mulled wine and mulled cider (mulled anything) to decadent cakes and gooey brownies. The holiday season means doubling our sugar intake, but when that comes in the form of a s’mores macaron and fluffy marshmallow hot chocolate cake, who really cares? We made a visit to London-based foodie and professional cake maker, Neighbourhood Bakes, to steal her recipes and boss it in the dessert department. Brace yourselves for the tastiest food coma of the season…

UO: What made you want to start your own baking business?

I’ve been baking as a hobby for years. I love it when it’s someone’s birthday – I always like to make someone a cake if I can! I suppose it really all started form there. I began getting a bit more experimental at home with the decorating and just didn’t stop. The responses I was getting from everyone were so positive and it gave me so much motivation to keep going, learning and trying out new things. It was after I created my Instagram page that my friends started asking me to bake cakes for them. From this point I started getting offered money for my cakes and so I decided it was time turn my baking into a little business! It’s the hardest, but best thing I’ve ever done.

UO: Where does your passion for cooking stem from?

I’ve always loved to cook. There’s no doubt about it, if you come round my house, you’ll get fed – mainly with endless amounts of cake cut offs.

UO: Do you come from a family of bakers and foodies?

Absolutely! Food is a big part in my family’s life and the kitchen is the hub of the house. Our bonding time is always spent surrounded by food! We spend so many weekends at markets such as Borough and Maltby Road trying and tasting new foods. Both my parents are very good cooks and are always the first people I go to when I need help with my baking/decorating.

UO: What’s your hero ingredient?

That’s a secret…but I like using coconut oil in my cooking as I love the taste of coconut and using it instead of butter takes the flavours into a whole new level!

UO: What is your go-to dinner party dessert?

Chocolate Brownies usually, but depending on the crowd to please, I’ll either take the choc, maple bacon and pecans or the choc, avocado and coconut oil (my favourites).

UO: What’s the creation process in putting together new recipes?

With the vast world of social media and Pinterest, I am coming across new ideas everyday. I also like to combine flavours of different coloured foods.

UO: Have you had any baking disasters?

Ha! Yes. I was making a wedding cake for some friends of mine and as I like everything to be super fresh, I was baking the cake the day before and the oven broke! Another time, I was making rum and lime macarons for this cake decoration and I ended up making the lime ones so many times because I just couldn’t work out why they weren’t cooking right. After four attempts I realised it was the type of food colouring I was using – I’m still learning along the way!

UO: What’s the best and worst thing about owning your own business?

The best thing is that I am really lucky to be doing something that I really love, at my own pace. The worst thing is that I eat all the leftover decoration at the end! I really love my job, but it’s not without its hardships.

UO: What’s been your biggest achievement to date?

I never thought in a million years that I would have my own business doing something that I absolutely love! I struggled so much at school with anything that wasn’t art and I never knew how I could get a job that would involve my creativity. I think my biggest achievement is being where I am right now, and dealing with the initial hurdles of starting up my own operation.

UO: What advice would you give to someone looking to open their own business?

Don’t feel bad about asking for help. The one thing I have struggled with at times is doing it on my own – sometimes you need someone else to give you a boot up the bum or point out the things that you’ve forgotten about.

UO: What do you enjoy the most about the Christmas season?

The chocolate, hot chocolate, and Xmas eve – it’s my favourite night of the year. When everyone you know goes back home and everyone goes to the local, you see people who you don’t see all year, from school, from old days and all get merry!

And finally…

My favourite Christmas treat is… Chocolate!
If I could only eat one thing for all eternity it would be… Dairy Milk chocolate.
The most rewarding thing about my job is… the look on peoples faces when they get their cakes! All I want to do is bake cakes and make people happy.
In 2016 I want to… smash it, I want my business to from strength to strength.

S’mores Macarons and Homemade Marshmallows

“S’mores” are a traditional campfire treat popular in the United States. They are created by sandwiching chocolate and marshmallow between two biscuits. When I was making the hot chocolate cake I wanted something decorative that was also biscuity to add texture and colour, so I knew S’mores macarons would be perfect. The only problem with S’mores is that one of the main ingredients is a Graham cracker, which we don’t have in the UK, so I decided to make a British version with a good old Rich Tea biscuit macaron shell!

The recipe is divided into three stages, which also includes the recipe for homemade marshmallows. You should first make the ganache so it has time to chill, followed by the macaron shells and finally the marshmallow ‘fluff’ filling and the marshmallows.


For the chocolate ganache filling:
125g dark chocolate, chopped
120ml double cream
30g unsalted butter

For the Rich Tea biscuit Macaron cases (makes about 20):
4 medium egg whites (2 egg whites for the Italian meringue and 2 for the almond paste)
175g caster sugar
75ml water
Sugar thermometer
115g ground almonds
60g ground up rich tea biscuits (use a food processor)
170g icing sugar

For the Marshmallows and Marshmallow filling:
24g gelatine powder
240ml water
2 tsp vanilla extract
140g liquid glucose
170g caster sugar
Sugar thermometer
100g icing sugar


For the chocolate ganache filling:

1. In a saucepan, heat the double cream until it’s hot, but not boiling, then remove from the heat.

2. Stir in the chocolate and let it sit for a few minutes. Then stir in the butter until smooth. Place the ganache in the fridge until it is chilled but still spreadable.

For the Rich Tea biscuit Macaron cases (makes about 20):

1. Preheat the oven to 140°C. Depending on how confident you are feeling, prepare a baking sheet with pre-drawn circles to help you with the size of your macarons for when it comes to piping, about 4-5 centimetres depending how big you want them. Leave 2cms between each circle. Underneath the baking paper in each corner place a little bit of left over Italian meringue or macaron mix and press down; this is to stop the paper from moving around in the oven and ruining your macarons!

2. First make the Italian meringue. Put the caster sugar and the water in a saucepan with your sugar thermometer to heat, which will then make a sugar syrup. You want to heat the mixture until it reaches 115°C. While this is heating, place two of the egg whites in a separate bowl and start whisking until they become foamy but not whipped. When your sugar syrup is heated, start pouring it into the beaten egg whites whilst your whisk is still beating, then turning the whisk up to a high speed and beat for about 5 minutes until a stiff meringue consistency is formed.

3. In a separate bowl place the ground almonds, ground biscuit crumbs, (leaving a small amount of crumbs for topping the shells before baking), icing sugar and then finally the remaining two egg whites and combine until a paste is formed.

4. Now start adding in the Italian meringue mix, roughly in three stages. Firstly take a third and mix in well making sure you combine all the ingredients together. Take the second third and gently fold into the mixture making sure you are not too rough. Finally, very carefully fold the last third into the mixture making sure it is all evenly combined. Be careful not to over mix as this will make your batter runny and cause your macarons to spread in the oven.

5. Fill a piping bag with the mixture and begin to pipe your individual macarons. When you have finished piping them, sprinkle a few of the left over rich tea biscuit crumbs on top of your shells for texture. Then lightly tap the bottom of the tray. This helps create the feet which is the slightly raised bit around the edge.

6. Bake in the oven for about 10 minutes, until the macarons easily come away from the baking paper. If they don’t come away and only the outside shell comes away, put them in for a couple more minutes, keeping an eye on them so you don’t burn them.

7. Remove the macarons from the oven and let them cool on a wire rack.

While the macarons are cooling, make the marshmallow fluff filling and the marshmallows all at once.

For the Marshmallows and Marshmallow filling:

1. Line a square baking tin with cling film and a good layer of icing sugar covering all the sides. This is to stop the cling film from sticking to your marshmallows when you want to take them out of the tin. Place your gelatin powder and 120ml of the water and the vanilla extract in a bowl and let the gelatin ‘bloom’ (which is a fancy baking term for hydrate) giving it a little mix making sure there are no lumps, then add it to your mixer. Add half of the liquid glucose and put the mixer on a slow mix while you make the sugar syrup.

2. Put your caster sugar, liquid glucose and the rest of the water (120ml) into a saucepan. Heat the sugar exactly like you did for the Italian meringue in the macaron recipe, to about 115°C using your sugar thermometer.

3. When the syrup reaches this point, take it off the heat and slowly pour into your mixer adding it to the gelatin mix. Then turn the mixer up to a medium speed and beat for about 5 minutes. The consistency will now be white but still be very runny at this point so you need to mix it for another 5-6 minutes on a high speed until a thick glossy consistency is formed.

4. Pour 3/4 of the marshmallow mix into the baking tray and spread evenly. Then sprinkle quite heavily with the rest of the icing sugar making sure you cover every corner. Place in the fridge and leave over night. Trust me it’s worth the wait!

5. When you remove the marshmallows from the fridge, turn them out onto an icing sugar dusted surface and use a hot knife to cut them to avoid your self getting into a sticky situation! Then give the individual marshmallows one final sprinkling of icing sugar.

Now it’s time to fill your macarons!

Take the remaining marshmallow mix and put it in a piping bag. Do the same with the chocolate ganache. Pair up your macaron shells and on one side pipe the ganache and on the other the marshmallow fluff, and gently twist the two sides together. Do this for all your macarons. Obviously it will be hard to resist trying one, but if you can, let them sit in the fridge for a little bit before serving to let the marshmallow filling set slightly. If you’re feeling really adventurous, carefully take a culinary torch and toast the marshmallow edges to get the real “S’mores” taste!

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