As part of my full-time grown-up job as a radio producer for East Coast FM, I am working all weekend at the election count in Wicklow. These are always a long slog but super craic.
This is my third General Election working with the station and while I vote in Dublin West, Wicklow’s constituency has a massive place in my heart.
We will be bringing musicians, some wine recommendations and chatty contributors to the listeners as well as political commentators and local politicians, past and present and the Morning Show will stay on the air until all five TDs are declared. I love current affairs and am always proud to vote, especially when I think of how many people and in particular, women that live in places where they are not entitled to have their voice heard, in any way whatsoever.
- Wicklow is unique for General Elections, it has always had the largest number of candidates running (24 in 2011) and the count is usually the longest in the country, with one Garden County election in 2002 taking one full week to declare their five TDS. The average count is done within 48 hours…
- We are one of the most politically engaged countries, and a lot of people have stated their suitability as an elected representative over a few jars in the bars of Ireland! ‘Sure, I’d do better than the lads who are in there!’ Although, in reality, most of us would have no interest!
- You may have often heard our parents say (with mirth) vote early, vote often, which was a phrase used in the past and advice that clearly cannot be followed!
- Irish women won the right to vote in 1918 although were only in a position to use that vote in Ireland after the establishment of the Free State in 1922.
Back to the matter at hand;
I like to bake and have a very sweet tooth as do the rest of the team! I wanted to provide some treats for the troops, as the count could go into the wee hours of the morning and across the weekend. So I enlisted Jen, to make her specialty; Red Velvet Cupcakes and I made my firm favourite Avoca Mars Bar Biscuit Squares, I also made some fairy cakes to offer our many guests, they are ridiculously easy and I had the time during the long melting process of the Mars Bar Biscuit Squares.
I have included the recipes that we used for all three here, we would love you to try them and let us know what you think.
Claire’s version of Avoca mars bar biscuit Squares
These are so easy, you don’t even need an oven, they keep very well and are super if you need a pick me up or are having a sad or bad day, there is almost no problem that doesn’t feel less if you throw butter and chocolate at it.
Mars Bar Biscuits
Makes about 12 large biscuits, these are pretty indulgent so I make them smaller, people seem to love this but smaller squares are more popular with my crew/friends
- 390g Mars Bars
- 200g butter
- 200g Rice Krispie cereal (any brand)
- 400g Good quality chocolate (the Avoca recipe uses 200g but I prefer it thicker, and always use Cadbury or better)
- Prepare a 30cm x 20cm baking tin
- Cut the Mars Bars and butter into small pieces and place in heatproof bowl over a saucepan with a small amount of water in it, take care the water doesn’t reach the bottom of the bowl. Put over low heat and stir occasionally until melted and well mixed. ****this takes quite a while and the texture will seem very weird and oily while the nougat in the mars bar is melting, stick with it.
- Add the Mars Bars and butter mixture to the Rice Krispie cereal in a large bowl. Stir until ingredients are combined. ***this requires some graft, make sure there are no untouched krispies lurking at the bottom of the bowl.
- Spoon into the baking tin and press mixture with the back of the spoon or a fish slice/spatula to firm up shape.
- Melt your chocolate over a saucepan of simmering water. Pour over the rice cereal, spread evenly with a palate knife, and allow to set. I usually pop in into the fridge; take it out after approx. 90-120mins to score it (as it gets very solid).
- When chocolate has fully set, and rice cereal has cooled, lift the content of the tin to a cutting board and slice into squares.
Fairy cakes are fail safe, the mixture can easily be doubled or 1 and halfed. They are great for kids’ parties and a pretty addition to a baby shower spread. They are definitely easy enough for your child or niece/nephew to help with from around the age of 5+. I also highly recommend these to anyone nervous about baking – you will be thrilled with how easy they are and dying to get to the next recipe. Don’t buy cupcake cases, they are really too big for fairy cakes…or as our Mum calls them, ‘buns.’ This recipe makes roughly 18 fairy cakes.
- 180g self-raising flour
- 170g margarine – I find the tub version best
- 170g sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla essence
- 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 3 eggs
- Fairy cake tin x 2
- 18 bun cases
- Set the oven to 190 degrees or gas mark 5.
- Put the cases into the tin.
- Sieve flour & baking powder into a large mixing bowl add eggs, sugar, margarine & vanilla essence.
- Mix together with a handheld mixer or a wooden spoon until it looks like this.
- Use a large spoon & teaspoon to fill each case about 2/3 full.
- Pop into the oven for 12-16 mins or until golden. Make sure the sponge is springy.
- Wait for them to cool & ice, frost or decorate. I used basic glace icing with silver sprinkles on half & melted chocolate & buttons on other half, because these were the quickest way to decorate & I was short on time.Glace icing is super sweet, add a little drop of hot water to a 2 cups of icing sugar & mix; keep adding small drops of water until you get an icing consistency. Move quickly it dries fast. You could add the tiniest speck of red food colouring to make the icing pink, or any other colouring, start with a speck & build… it’s strong stuff. There is also hundreds of variations of sprinkles, flags, edible flowers & much more available from all supermarkets & baking sites *see below. I like Dr Oetker stuff if I’m picking up baking bits with my groceries.There are many fancier/different ways to decorate fairy cakes, but that’s for in a different post 🙂
*I mentioned earlier that the cupcakes work great as gifts – cupcake boxes make the gift seem even nicer. I buy mine from Stuff4Cakes.ie. It’s an Irish company based in Galway. The boxes are €1 each, you can buy for 4s or 6s and if your delivery is small, they will post to save you paying the full delivery charge. There are lots of goodies on this website, especially if you are attempting anything themed or perhaps a Communion or Christening cake. The Decobake shops in Dublin, Clane, Limerick, Athlone and Galway also have terrific stock and you can order from them online too.
Very rarely, but sometimes Supervalu stores stock cakeboxes. I find home store and more very good for tins, cake cases and other baking bits.
Jenny’s Red Velvet Cupcakes
These red velvet cupcakes taste amazing, look really professional and make great gifts, but make sure to make extra for yourself! Here is Jen’s Recipe;
“To help Claire and her colleagues get through the election weekend, I joined in on baking treats and made my world-famous (according to some anyway) red velvet cupcakes. This recipe makes about 12-14 cupcakes depending on the size of your bun cases. I doubled the mixture to make 24, which actually yielded 30! I do not recommend trying that with one 12-bun tray!”
- 155g of plain flower
- 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon of salt
- 170g of caster sugar
- 150 mls of vegetable oil
- 125 mls of butter milk
- 1 large egg
- 20 mls of red food colouring
- 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon of white distilled vinegar
Tip: The recipe I used also suggests half a heaped tablespoon of cocoa powder, which makes them richer, but for me, I think this makes them a bit heavy. Feel free to add some and let me know what you think.
- Preheat the oven to 180C (Gas Mark 4) and line your bun tin with paper cases.
- Sieve and combine the dry ingredients (the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar) in one bowl.
- In a second bowl, combine the oil, butter milk, egg, food colouring, vanilla extract and vinegar and beat lightly.
- Pour the dry ingredients into the red mixture and beat until fully combined.
- Fill each bun case 3/4 of the way. Because it’s a runny cake mixture, the easiest way I find to do this is to pour the mixture into a jug and slowly pour into each case, using a spoon to stop drips and run-offs.
- Put them in the oven and bake for 20 minutes.
- 250g of icing sugar
- 55g of butter
- 125g of Philadelphia cream cheese
- 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract
Tip: I’d wait until they’re out of the oven to start the icing because you don’t want it to get to melted. It’s better for them to be fully cooled by the time you’re putting the icing on.
- Beat the butter, cream cheese, vanilla extract and icing sugar until fully combined.
- Either spoon or spread the icing on, or if you have a piping bag or syringe, use that.