Mix together vanilla cake mix, 1 cup water, vegetable oil, and eggs in a mixing bowl with an electric mixer on low speed until cake mix is moist. Raise mixer speed to medium and beat until batter is smooth, 2 minutes.
Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups, filling them about 2/3 full.
Bake in the preheated oven until cupcakes are very lightly browned and a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean, 18 to 23 minutes.
Cool cupcakes in the pans for 5 minutes; transfer cupcakes to cooling rack to finish cooling.
Place raspberries, 1 tablespoon water, and white sugar in a blender and pulse several times to chop raspberries; blend until pureed, about 30 seconds.
Whisk cornstarch with 1/4 cup water until thoroughly combined; pour mixture into the raspberry mixture in the blender and blend again until smooth.
Pour raspberry mixture into a saucepan and simmer over low heat until thickened, about 5 minutes. Let the raspberry filling cool.
Cut a core out of each cupcake about 1 1/2 inches long and 1 inch in diameter.
Spoon about 2 teaspoons raspberry filling into each cupcake.
Place white chocolate chips in a microwave-safe bowl and heat in 30-second intervals until chips begin to melt, about 1 minute. Stir and repeat, heating chips about 10 seconds at a time, until thoroughly melted. Stir until chocolate is smooth and no more lumps remain.
Beat butter with an electric mixer on medium speed in a mixing bowl until fluffy. Beat in half the confectioners’ sugar, melted white chocolate chips, and milk until mixture is smooth and creamy.
Slowly beat in remaining confectioners’ sugar until smooth; if frosting is too stiff, beat in more milk, 1 teaspoon at a time.
Spread or pipe the white chocolate frosting over the cupcakes to cover the raspberry filling; drizzle or pipe any remaining raspberry filling over cupcakes. If using a piping bag and decorative tip to ice the cupcakes, make sure that the white chocolate is completely melted and there are no small chunks.
Preheat an oven to 350 F (175 C). Line a standard muffin tin with paper cupcake liners.
Beat the cake mix, water, vegetable oil, and egg whites together on low speed for 30 seconds, then on medium for 2 minutes, until smooth. Fill cupcake liners 1/3 full with white batter; set aside.
Stir 4 drops of red food coloring into the remaining bowl of batter to make the batter pink, stir in the raspberry oil. Pour 1/3 of pink batter into a resealable plastic bag and set aside.
Mix more food coloring into the remaining bowl of pink batter until it is an orange/red color and pour the batter into a resealable plastic bag. Cut a corner off the bag, stick the open tip into the center of each cup of white batter and squeeze in about two tablespoons of red batter.
Cut the corner off the bag with the pink batter, stick the open tip into the center of the red batter and squeeze about 1 tablespoon pink batter into each cup.
Bake the layered cupcakes in the preheated oven until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 15 to 20 minutes. Cool completely before frosting.
Prepare the sliced-banana topping just before serving. Ingredients: (8 to 10 serves)
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pans
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pans
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs, separated
2 ripe bananas, enough to make 1 cup mashed
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
Banana Bourbon Layer Cake
3/4 cup sour cream
3 bananas, not too ripe
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons dark-brown sugar
3/4 cup bourbon
Heat oven to 350 F. Grease and flour two 8-inch round cake pans. In a bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
Cream together butter and sugar. Add egg yolks one at a time. In another bowl, mash bananas, and combine with buttermilk and vanilla. Add alternately to butter mixture with flour mixture, beginning and ending with flour.
Beat egg whites until stiff; fold into batter.
Divide batter between prepared pans. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes. Let cool in pans for 5 minutes, then turn out onto a rack to cool completely.
When cake layers are cool, whip cream with confectioners’ sugar until stiff. Fold in sour cream. Place a cake layer on a plate, and spread with filling to within 1 inch of edge. Place other layer on top, and press down lightly. Chill for 1 hour.
Slice bananas 1/2 inch thick. Melt butter in a large saute pan over medium heat. When it sizzles, add slices in a single layer. Sprinkle with sugar. When golden brown, turn slices; cook until brown on other side.
Carefully pour in bourbon (using a measuring cup, never the bottle) and ignite with a match. Cook until flames die down, shaking the pan to toss bananas in syrup. Remove from heat.
Arrange banana slices on top of cake. Pour remaining syrup over cake, letting it drip down sides. Serve immediately.
4 tablespoons (2 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
3/4 cup packed light-brown sugar
Triple-Chocolate Pumpkin Pie
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 ounce milk chocolate, melted
1 can (15-ounce) solid-pack pumpkin
1 can (12-ounce) evaporated milk
3 large eggs
Make the crust: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Combine graham cracker crumbs, butter, sugars, salt, and cinnamon in bowl. Firmly press mixture into bottom and up sides of a deep, 9 1/2-inch pie dish. Bake until firm, 8 to 10 minutes.
Remove from oven, and sprinkle bittersweet chocolate over bottom of crust. Return to oven to melt chocolate, about 1 minute. Spread chocolate in a thin layer on bottom and up sides. Let cool on a wire rack. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees F.
Make the filling: In a large heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water, melt semisweet chocolate and butter, stirring until smooth. Remove from heat.
Mix pumpkin, milk, brown sugar, eggs, cornstarch, vanilla, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and a pinch of cloves in a medium bowl. Whisk 1/3 pumpkin mixture into chocolate mixture. Whisk in remaining pumpkin mixture until completely incorporated.
Transfer pie dish to a rimmed baking sheet, and pour pumpkin mixture into crust. Bake until center is set but still a bit wobbly, 55 to 60 minutes. Let cool in pie dish on a wire rack. Refrigerate until well chilled, at least 8 hours (preferably overnight). Before serving, drizzle melted milk chocolate on top. Serve immediately.
Eerie eyeball pops: These spooky chocolate cake balls will be a hit with kids at Halloween – they can help decorate them too.
100g/4oz Madeira cake
100g Oreo cookies
100g bar milk chocolate, melted
200g bar white chocolate, melted
few Smarties and icing pens, to decorate
You will also need:
10 wooden skewers
½ small pumpkin or butternut squash, deseeded, to stand pops in
Halloween eerie eyeball pops
Break the Madeira cake and cookies into the bowl of a food processor, pour in the melted milk chocolate and whizz to combine.
Tip the mixture into a bowl, then use your hands to roll into about 10 walnut-sized balls. Chill for 2 hrs until really firm.
Push a skewer into each ball, then carefully spoon the white chocolate over the cake balls to completely cover. Stand the cake pops in the pumpkin, then press a Smartie onto the surface while wet. Chill again until the chocolate has set. Before serving, using the icing pens, add a pupil to each Smartie and wiggly red veins to the eyeballs.
Over 50% of women are concerned about excess body hair says a report published by market research company Mintel last month.
In the online survey of more than 2,000 women, excess hair was rated just behind weight gain for body dissatisfaction.
It is also estimated that one in ten women suffers from excess facial and body hair.
What causes excess body hair?
Dr. Rina Davison, an endocrinologist from Whipps Cross University Hospital, London, with a special interest in excess hair explained:
“Sometimes race or just a family tendency to be more hairy is to blame, rather than any medical problem.
“People of South Asian or Mediterranean descent tend to have more hair than Caucasians or those with black skin, for example. It’s also possible to be quite a <<hairy>> family regardless of race.”
There are other factors – from commonly prescribed drugs to poor diet and certain ailments – that could be to blame…
Cakes and biscuits
Eating large amounts of sugary, refined carbohydrates, such as biscuits and cakes, may trigger excess hair.
These foods have a high glycaemic index, which means they release their energy quickly and can cause insulin resistance, explains Dr. Rina Davison.
Insulin is the hormone that controls blood sugar level; “resistance” means the hormone becomes less effective at lowering blood sugar, so the body has to produce more of it to get the job done.
Eating large amounts of sugary, refined carbohydrates, such as biscuits and cakes, may trigger excess hair
“The problem is that a raised insulin level may trigger growth factors which make the ovaries produce too much of the <<male>> hormone testosterone, which can lead to excess hair,” says Marilyn Glenville, a women’s health expert and nutritionist.
“Being overweight can also cause insulin resistance.”
Polycystic ovaries, is a condition that represents the main cause of excess hair in women.
Estimated to affect 10 to 15% of women, Polycystic Ovaries Syndrome (PCOS) is when the ovaries don’t work properly and are covered in small cysts.
As a result, eggs are released erratically or not at all, causing irregular or missed periods, and often reduced fertility and acne.
One of the most common symptoms is a high level of male hormones (androgens), which leads to hair growth.
All women produce androgens. However, sometimes women produce higher levels, or they may have normal levels, but their hair follicles are more sensitive to androgens.
“If excess hair is due to a hormonal imbalance, then it tends to occur in areas such as the chin, upper lip, sideburns, chest and inner thighs,” says Dr. Rina Davison.
“These are areas of the skin that are more sensitive to testosterone. The hair is also likely to be coarse and dark.”
Given the implications for fertility, women worried about excess hair should see their GP, advises Steve Franks, professor of reproductive endocrinology at Imperial College, London and an endocrinologist at St Mary’s and Hammersmith Hospitals, London.
“There may be other problems to investigate,” Professor Steve Franks suggests. “Often, excess hair is a symptom of PCOS, but it also can be indicative of less common, but potentially more serious, hormonal disorders, or tumours of the ovary or adrenal gland – the two parts of the body that produce testosterone.
“Many, if not most, GPs will take the problem seriously and refer to an endocrinologist if appropriate.
“Women should not be afraid to ask for a referral to a specialist.”
The alarm bells should ring for a GP if a woman comes in with a growth of facial hair that has developed within the past six months, Prof. Steve Franks adds.
“Patients with skin problems such as eczema or psoriasis can also develop excess hair,” says Dr. Rina Davison.
“That’s because these conditions are caused by inflammation, which increases the blood supply to that part of the skin, accelerating hair growth.
“It also increases skin cell turnover – the rate at which skin cells renew themselves. With psoriasis, for example, new skin cells are produced every two to six days, rather than the normal 21 to 28 days.
“What’s important here is that it’s not just skin cell turnover that’s magnified, but hair growth, too.”
“If a woman’s partner has been given testosterone in gel form to raise his levels of the hormone, then it may inadvertently get transferred to her through skin contact,” says Dr. Rina Davison.
“Not many people realize this can happen, and that it can be enough to trigger hair growth in areas such as the face.
“The same can also happen with testosterone prescribed to women for libido purposes.
“Similarly, products for hair loss in men and women, such as minoxidil, can cause unwanted hair growth if they inadvertently get transferred to other parts of the skin during application,” says Dr. Rina Davison.
“I have seen women develop excess hair on their forehead, fingers and backs of hands.”
Furthermore, while minoxidil is often applied to the scalp as a lotion, it is sometimes taken in tablet form as a treatment for high blood pressure and can cause unwanted hair growth, says Carole Michaelides, consultant trichologist at the Philip Kingsley clinic in London.
People suffering from anorexia will have lanugo hair – an excess of fine, downy hair that covers the body, says Dr. Rina Davison.
“It’s not known why it happens – it’s not a hormonal issue.
“Unfortunately, the excess hair is unlikely to help the person’s already negative image of their body.”
Corticosteroids are used to reduce inflammation in the body and are prescribed to treat conditions such as asthma and rheumatoid arthritis.
They contain a synthetic version of the hormone cortisol and levels can build up in the body over time.
The problem is that if the drugs are taken for more than four to six months, this can cause a condition called Cushing’s syndrome.
Symptoms include weight gain, a red, puffy face and excess hair growth all over the body.
The risk of developing Cushing’s syndrome is higher in people who take steroids in tablet form, although it can also affect those who use take large doses of inhaled steroids, e.g. for asthma, or steroid creams often used to treat eczema or psoriasis.
“As the hormone oestrogen declines at the menopause, testosterone (the ‘male’ hormone) can become more dominant,” explains Marilyn Glenville.
“You don’t have more testosterone, but the ratio of oestrogen to testosterone has changed, making women prone to symptoms of male pattern baldness or other male characteristics such as facial hair and acne.”
Indeed, it’s thought that about 25% of middle-aged women regularly remove unwanted facial hair. The hair may grow on the upper lip or chin – areas that are sensitive to testosterone – or sometimes also on the cheeks, chest, stomach and back.
Treatment for the menopause in the form of Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) may also trigger excess hair. The aim of HRT is to correct the drop in oestrogen and progesterone.
“There are two types of progestogens which can be included in HRT preparations,” says Marilyn Glenville.
The first group represents analogues (meaning “similar to”) of progesterone (such as dydrogesterone and medroxyprogesterone) and the second are analogues of testosterone (such as norethisterone).
If your HRT contains progestogens that are similar to testosterone, this might explain excess hair growth and you need to speak to your GP about your choices.
Another form of HRT is tibolone. “This is a synthetic steroid compound which has androgenic properties, so one of its side-effects can be increased facial hair,” says Marilyn Glenville.
Certain contraceptives, such as Yasmin, are also marketed as being hair-friendly, while the Mirena coil has been linked with excess facial hair, adds Carole Michaelides.
How you can tackle the excess body hair
“There is a myth that shaving or plucking makes hair grow back thicker and stronger, but this isn’t the case,” says consultant trichologist Carole Michaelides.
“It’s more an optical illusion – rather than being long and fine, the hair is short and stumpy.”
Endocrinologist Dr. Rina Davison adds: “There isn’t one best way to remove hair.
“In some people, waxing might cause ingrown hairs and infections, and bleaching isn’t always an option for darker skin.
“Laser is an effective treatment, but it is expensive and you must make sure the trigger of the unwanted hair has been rectified.
“If it is a hormonal condition, for example, this must be treated first or you will continue to grow the hair and the results won’t be permanent.”
If the hair is triggered by a hormonal condition, the British Association of Dermatologists (BAD) recommends a range of medical treatments available on the NHS.
These include anti-androgens to block male hormones, eflornithine cream to slow hair growth, or the contraceptive pill.