Christmas recipe: Oreo Cupcakes

For this week's festive sweet treat, Maria shares her favourite Oreo cupcake recipe!

This is one of my favourite recipes to make at Christmas, the cakes are rich, creamy and very indulgent, pretty much everything that Christmas should be! The recipe is adapted from one that I found on the Good Food Channel website a few years ago:

Ingredients

For the cupcakes
6 Oreo biscuits
115 g unsalted butter, softened
115 g caster sugar
½ tsp vanilla extract
100 g self-raising flour
20 g cocoa powder
2 large eggs, beaten
1 tsp milk

For the frosting
50 g butter, softened
80 g cream cheese, cold
175 g icing sugar
6 Oreo biscuits
12 Oreo biscuits to decorate


To make the cakes:

1. preheat oven to 180C/160 fan/gas 4. Line a muffin tin with 11 paper muffin cases. Separate the Oreos and place half into the bottom of each case, with any cream filling facing upwards.

2. Cream together the softened butter and caster sugar, along with the vanilla extract, until pale and fluffy.

3. Sift in the flour and cocoa powder. Add the two beaten eggs and mix well, taking care to stop once all of the dry ingredients are incorporated. Add the milk and beat briefly to combine.

4. Divide the mixture evenly between the cupcake cases. Bake for 22-25 minutes.

To make the frosting:

1. Place the six large Oreos into a food processor and whizz into crumbs. Alternatively, place the cookies into a plastic food bag and smash with a rolling pin. Set aside.

2. Rub the softened butter into the icing sugar using the back of a wooden spoon. Do the same with the cream cheese.

3. Once the icing sugar has been incorporated, whisk with an electric mixer until light and fluffy.

4. Gently fold the Oreo crumbs into the frosting, being careful not to over mix. If the frosting is a little runny at this stage, place in the fridge to chill for 15 minutes.

5. Cover each cupcake with the frosting and finish with an Oreo.

Meet the team: Cat

In today's meet the team we talk to our amazing studio assistant, Cat, as she embarks on her second Christmas in the team!:


When did you join the team?
I joined the team in 2014 as a Christmas staff member.. aka one of the MAB Christmas elves!

So this is your second christmas, how are you feeling about the busiest time of the year?
It's quite scary as there are so many orders and you want everyone to be 100% happy with their Christmas gifts. However it's also the funnest time of year because the closer we get to Christmas, the more fun we have in the studio. Everyone is jolly, there are Christmas songs on the radio and we eat tones of biscuits, it's a really nice atmosphere!

What did you study at uni?
I studied Graphic Design at Central Saint Martins, but within my course I did 1 year of Illustration and my final year in Creative Advertising which was really interesting.

What is your favourite Maria Allen Boutique product?
My favourite product is definitely all the Personalised Glass Boxes. I'm going to get one for my sister for Christmas.




What's your favourite thing about Brighton?
I really love Brighton, It's quirky, unique, fun and friendly. It's got lots of independent cafes and shops which I really like. I think Brighton is a great place to find something extra special that you might not find anywhere else, whether it's an amazing slice of cake or a beautiful gift for a friend!

Artists' Open Houses: What to see

Brighton is a great city at Christmas, the streets come alive with lights, markets, mulled wine, brass bands, ice skating in front of the infamous Royal Pavilion and the shopping possibilities are endless. Some of the best shopping can be done on Thursday evenings on the popular North Laine, where you can nip in and out of the cold into one of the hundreds of independent boutiques, cafes and pubs.

Our favourite Christmas shopping however is done during Weekends in November and December at the Artists' Open Houses. Artists across the city open up their homes and studios for 4 weekends from the 21st November - 13th December to showcase beautiful works on sale to the public perfect as Christmas gifts.

Here's what not to miss during the open house weekends in Brighton:


Albert Mews Studios
An incredibly festive array of products and designs on display at the Albert Mew Studios including, Brighton themed homeware, tights, hats, cards, calendars and chutneys! There really is something for everyone at their lovely central Hove studios!




Designers include:
Martha Mitchell Design Homeware and gifts
Lizzie Lock Millinery Headwear
Joanna Corney Printed homeware
hose. Hosiery
Patricia Holubowskj Knitwear
Maggie Whatford Leather accessories
Chhipa Unisex shirts
Corinne Taylor Organic aromatherapy products
Nick Sellek Prints and window cards
Kysam Silver jewellery
Hove Made Pickles and chutneys 

1 Albert Mews, Third Avenue, Hove BN3 2PP
The studios are open from 11am - 6pm 28th, 29th November 2014, 5th, 6th, 12th, 13th December 2015. Read more here


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Baobab
Baobab open their doors to the Artist’s Open Houses for two weekends in December, providing a unique creative space that complements the work of its exhibiting artists.






Artists include:
Elaine Bolt Ceramics
Christina Fedyk Monoprints
Rhoda Baker Paperscapes
Frances Doherty Ceramics

Baobab is a design-led company who are passionate about property and design, creating inspirational and positive environments. Baobab has worked with acclaimed architects and designers on this exquisite ultra modern construction, exploring the use of natural light, open space, functionality and aesthetics.

39-41 Withdean Road, Brighton BN1 5BP
The house is open to the public from 10am-5pm on the 5th, 6th, 12th, 13th December 2015. 
Read more here


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11 Rugby Road
Once again the residents and friends of 11 Rugby road open their home to the public
, exhibiting jewellery, glass, greetings cards, textiles, ceramics, exclusive prints and much more. Join them for mulled wine in the kitchen which has been transformed into a candy wonderland!





11 Rugby Road, Brighton BN1 6EB
The house is open from 11am-5pm on the 28th, 29th November and the 5th, 6th, 12th, 13th December 2015. Read more here



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8 Caryle Street
Featuring established designer/makers and work by textiles students at Glasgow School of Art, this exhibition includes a beautiful selection of work by:

Katie Lewis Upholstery design
Jackie Jones Silver sundials and jewellery
Hannah Wells Illustrated greetings cards
Jenny Pearce Crochet accessories
Kate Wand Laser-cut acrylic
Paula Leighton Felted decorations
Nancy Tulley Metal, leather and knitted work
Beth Furini Leather and knitted goods

8 Carlyle Street, Brighton BN2 9XW
The house is open 11am - 5pm on the 28th, 29th November, 5th, 6th, 12th, 13th December 2015. Read more here


For more information about the Artists' Open House project visit their website here.

Gifts for difficult to buy for Dads

We all know that Dads are notoriously difficult to buy for and as Christmas approaches we begin to experience what can only be described as festive-fear. Here is our concise guide to buying for Dad (or actually any man in your life...)

1. Start early (...or choose express)
There is nothing worse than leaving the most difficult until last, but with express shipping available right up until the 23rd December, last minute doesn't have to mean a box of wine gums and a multi pack of antifreeze from the petrol station.

2. Keep it personal
Personalised gifts are a great way to show that you have put thought and time into a present. You could choose to personalise a product with a special message or go one further and include yours or your children's handwriting or even design your own pair of cufflinks. Dad is bound to be impressed by the uniqueness of his gift.



3. Make it practical
Let's face it, Dads like practical. Whether that's a travel mug to carry his favourite coffee to the station in, cufflinks containing working compasses, or an etched USB keyring to keep his data safe, Dad is guaranteed to be thrilled.


4. Get a good deal
Dad will be even happier if he knows you got his stylish, practical and potentially last minute gift at a better price. That's why we are offering 10% off all men's gifts right up until Christmas! Use the code DAD10 at checkout to get your discount!



Now breathe a sigh of relief and get shopping! www.mariaallenboutique.com




Spiced Chocolate Lebkuchen Recipe

As the countdown to Christmas begins we've asked the team to each share one of their favourite festive recipes. Whether it's nostalgia, festivity or sugar content that makes these recipes popular, they are sure to go down well with family and friends over the Christmas period.

This week Sarah shares her Lebkuchen recipe:


This is a really easy recipe that I picked up whilst I was living in Germany. Christmas is a great time of year in Germany and these soft spiced gingerbreads remind me of Christmas markets and warm Gl├╝hwein!


Makes 30

Ingredients

250g plain flour
85g ground almonds
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1tsp baking powder
Ground cloves, grated nutmeg and black pepper (pinch of each)
85g butter
100ml clear honey
100ml maple syrup
1 lemon, finely grated zest

For the icing
100g icing sugar
1 egg white, beaten
75g of dark chocolate




1. Combine all of the dry ingredients into a large bowl and mix. Heat the honey, maple syrup and butter in a pan over a low heat until the butter melts, then pour into the flour mixture along with the lemon zest. Mix well until the dough is combined and becomes hard to stir. Cover and leave to cool (relax and make a cuppa!).



2. Heat the oven to 180C/fan160C/gas 4. Using your hands, roll the dough into balls, each around 3cm wide, then flatten each one slightly into a disk, you should be able to make around 30. Line two baking trays with parchment paper and divide the biscuits between the two. Make sure to leave enough room for them to expand as they bake. Bake for 15 mins until they begin to turn golden, then leave to cool on a wire rack.




3. Ice the biscuits by mixing together the icing sugar, egg white and 1 tbsp water to form a smooth, runny icing. Dip the top of each biscuit in the icing and leave to rest on a plate. You can build up the layers of icing if you want a thicker glaze. Once the icing has dried melt the chocolate over a bain-marie and dip the bottom of each lebkuchen into the chocolate. Leave to dry...enjoy!



Product round up - November

Over the past few weeks we have been hard at work developing new products and designs perfect for Christmas and new year gifting. Here are a selection of our favourite new products:

The Wanderlust Range:

Travel has been a strong theme during our last month and our wanderlust range combines fun and inspiring quotes with your own personalised messages, making them perfect gifts for a loved one or friend with big travel plans for 2016!

From top left: Personalised Wooden Coordinate Cufflinks, £55 // Personalised Time To Explore Compass keepsake, coming soon // Engraving on back of compass // Personalised working compass cufflinks, £40

Make it a Christmas they'll remember:
Our range of personalised Christmas decorations and festive gifts will ensure that it's not just a day but a season to remember. Our favourite design has to be the Our Year Bauble, a glass bauble which opens to reveal a beautiful cherry wood insert personalised with up to 5 memories or milestones from the past year!
From top left: Personalised Glass Proposal Bauble, £20 // Your Own Dog Bauble In Walnut Wood, £12 // Personalised Christmas Jumper Cufflinks, £55 // Personalised Glass Our Year Bauble, £20




From top left: Personalised Wine Glass Charms, £30 for set of 10 // Personalised Our Year Star Garland from £22 // Laser Cut Calligraphy Place Names, £35 for set of 10


Visit www.mariaallenboutique.com for more Christmas home and gift ideas!


Meet our stockists: Eleven

This month we talk to our Channel Island stockist Anna about her shop Eleven in the beautiful St Peter Port, Guernsey.






How long has Eleven been open and how did the business begin?
Eleven opened its doors in May 2013. We had three months to refurbish the retail space. We discovered that the building was actually built by an ancestor of my husbands in the late eighteen hundreds. It still features the original fireplace and safe.

You are based in the beautiful St Peter Port in Guernsey, tell us a little about island life!

We are a little town, charming, compact, with a beautiful harbour front, attractive restaurants, boutiques and shops that attract visitors from all over the world. We will have had over 100 cruise liners visit our shores.

Like us, the environment and sustainability are very important to your business, why is this?

I feel that as a society we have to look seriously at the precious few resources from which we produce our items and that we do our utmost to recycle, upcycle or find sustainable sources.

We make a lot of bespoke cufflink designs for you, do you have a favourite?
All the bespoke cufflinks are wonderful as they normally come from clients who have said “do you have?” and the idea blossoms from there.

Why do you think this bespoke service works so well for you and your customers?
The bespoke service provides my clients with something that is personal to them or to the person they are giving the gift to.

Once the shopping rush is over, how will you be spending your Christmas?
At home beside a long burning fireplace with my family and a large mug of some warmed wine punch.


Above are examples of the bespoke cufflink designs that we make for Eleven. For more information about our bespoke design service please visit our website here.

You can visit Eleven at 11 Commercial Arcade, Guernsey, Channel Islands. The shop can be contacted on 01481 714211 and more information can be found on their facebook page here.

Our Eco Wishlist

Our November wishlist is here and it's all things eco. Our impact on the environment is incredibly important to us here at Maria Allen Boutique and here are a selection of companies and products that share our passion for sustainability and style:


1. Sister & Co. - Glow Set, £44.95
Sister & Co create unique skin & body products using raw and active superfoods from around the world. The base to the products is extra-virgin organic coconut oil, cold-pressed at a small organic farm in Kerala, India.



2. Matt & Nat - CHANDA - GRAVEL - £95
Matt & Nat which stands for Material & Nature are a vegan brand committed to using no animal-based materials in their designs. Their huge collection of bags and purses are innovative in sustainability using recycled nylons, cardboard, rubber & cork. The linings of their bags are made from 100% recycled plastic bottles.






3. Maria Allen Boutique - Wooden Triangle Necklace - £30
Maria Allen Boutique is committed to using only reclaimed and sustainably sourced wood in their extensive collection of jewellery, accessories, gifts and homeware. Much of the wood is reclaimed from the local Sussex area, close to their studio in Brighton.




4. Kowtow Clothing (New Zealand) - Trace Dress - $195
Kowtow is a New Zealand clothing brand using only 100% organic fair trade certified cotton. Their simple and minimal designs certainly don't come at cost to their factory employees in Kolkata India, who receive a living wage, pension, free transport, medical insurance and free schooling for their children. The company also sponsors projects such as Girls Education, Cow Shed and Cow Donation programmes in local farming villages.




5. Cred Jewellery - Hex stacking bangle, £95
Cred Jewellery established the first transparent supply chain of Gold and Platinum from Oro Verde in Columbia, and were the first jewellery company to pay social premiums for Ecological Gold. They use 100% recycled silver and fair trade certified gold.




6. H&M CONSCIOUS - Satin maxi dress £29.99
As well as ensuring that every worker at their factories and supply chains earn a living wage, H&M introduced their Conscious line in 2012, bringing clothing made from conscious materials such as recycled wool, hemp and organic leather to the high street. 



7.  Elephant Branded - Laptop Case, £30

Elephant Branded have a clear mission, to make a positive, long term, sustainable change to the communities that produce their products and the children that receive their school kits. For every one of their ethically made bags sold the company gives one ergonomically designed school bag and kit to a child in Africa or Asia. The company is also committed to ensuring that their employees learn valuable skills that permit them to have a sustainable and effective way to get out of poverty.




8. Green People - Limited Edition Facial Care Gift Collection Owl, £15.95

With a promise to never use aggressive ingredients, synthetic chemicals or to test on animals, Green People's mission is to be Britain's favourite ethical skin care company. It's hard not to love their new woodland gift collections which donate 30p to the Woodland Trust with each sale.




9. The People Tree - Happy Cats Tee in Eco White - £30.00
People Tree is recognised as a pioneer in Fair Trade and environmentally sustainable fashion. For over twenty years, People Tree has partnered with Fair Trade artisans and farmers in the developing world to produce ethical and eco fashion collections.



Personalised Corporate Gifting

Christmas is a great time of year in our studio, spirits are high, the biscuit tin is always full and we love making, packing and sending so many sentimental christmas present.

We know that Christmas is also a great time in so many other businesses, but understand that what can make it a little more stressful are those corporate and employee gifting decisions. Why not do away with generic corporate gifts this Christmas and allow us to help you give your clients and employees impressive personalised and eco-friendly gifts to be cherished.

We offer personalised corporate gifting options across our full range of products and are always happy to discuss creating bespoke designs to fit your specifications.

Whether you are looking for corporate gifts to give to clients or products to gift to your employees, we can create jewellery, gifts and accessories that are tailored to you and your business.

We can create products using your logo, a specific design you have created, personalised messages or we can work with you to develop something suitable.

With both laser cutting and assembling done in house, we are able to provide a very fast turnaround for samples and orders. We are able to make products in any quantity and there are no minimum orders.

Please get in touch if you would like to find out more about our service and what we can offer you and your business: email info@mariaallenboutique.com or call us on 01273 748868







Vegan cookery class

Last month Maria attended a plant based cookery class in Brighton run by Paula from Titbits catering. Paula kindly, and somewhat bravely, opens up her home to budding bakers and vegan cooking fanatics, hosting the classes from her own kitchen in the Lewes Road area of Brighton. The classes are small and offered twice a month, each time with a different theme. Maria's class was aptly themed 'Budding Bakers' and here's what she made:

"Our class was a small group of 4 which was great and it was suitable for all levels - we baked so much and then everyone took home the food we had left over.

We started off making individual Leek and Mushroom pies (from scratch, including the pastry) and then had them for lunch along with some amazing salads. We had a potato salad and a beetroot, apple and pecan salad which filled us up and kept us going whilst we baked for the rest of the day! All of the food that we made was vegan / plant based."



Individual Leek and Mushroom pie with potato and beetroot, apple and pecan salad




 Sweet scones and Sundried Tomato and Rosemary Muffins


Chocolate Brownies

Victoria Sponge cake

Gluten free chocolate chip cookies


"We also made some amazing bread rolls which I sadly didn't have chance to photograph. All in all it was a great day of social baking and and everyone involved had a lot of fun. We all received a copy of the recipes to take with us so I now have several new ideas to try out at home! I have since taken several of Paula's classes and would highly recommend them!"


You can find out more about the cookery classes and how to book here.

Paula also runs a pop-up restaurant every Friday night in the Hanover area of Brighton which you can find out about here.

Happy baking!




Our exclusive collection for Harrods

Back in January we were asked by Harrods to design an exclusive collection of wooden Christmas decorations for their luxury Christmas department.

We were extremely excited by the opportunity and after much sampling decided on 11 intricate and fun decorations along the themes of Luxe Lodge and Magical Marionettes. 7 months later, and after a lot of hard work from our team, our designs became available to the public at the end of August! 

We take a visit to the wonderful knightsbridge store to visit the designs:

Above: Colourful and woodland themed displays in the luxury Christmas department


From top left: Solid walnut wood baubles in choice of three shapes // our decorations on display // Woodland lodge bauble // Christmas jumper decoration
From top left: Preparation in the studio, making, boxing and bowing our wooden fox decorations // Solid walnut wood decorations ready to pack // Snowflake and woodland scene baubles // Stag baubles ready to box

In all we created over 1000 wooden baubles and christmas decorations for Harrods. Our favourite design has to be the christmas jumper decoration, the concept is fun whilst the detailed cross stitch etching gives a stylishly scandinavian appearance.

You can view (and buy!) all 11 designs exclusively at Harrods in the run up to Christmas, for more information visit www.harrods.com or stop by the Knightsbridge store at 87-135 Brompton Rd, London SW1X 7XL.

For more information about our bespoke design service and what we can do for you please visit our website here.