Seasonal Surprise Ingredient Swap Roundup

Happy December everyone!

Back on the 1st of October I announced I'd be organising another Surprise Ingredient Swap - this time with a vaguely seasonal theme.

By mid October, 14 swappers were paired up and simultaneously shopping for and posting interesting ingredients and eagerly awaiting the arrival of their swap parcel. You can find out who was paired with who here.

Throughout November, I've been receiving links and photos of the delicious creations everyone has come up with, and now that another month has been turned over on the calendar, it's time to write-up the round-up!

And so, in a vaguely chronological order, off we go!

Recipe Junkie kicked us off with this decadent Pumpkin Cheesecake - what a ratio of filling to crust! She received a whole box of goodies, including pumpkin puree, cinnamon, dried apple rings and nuts from her swap partner's garden. A perfect and multi-purpose seasonal dessert with autumnal flavours that would be perfect for Halloween, Bonfire Night, Thanksgiving or Christmas!

Next up Mr E, who is a man of many blogs, but records his culinary exploits at Hell Yeah Four Ingredient Recipes. He was sent some marzipan, dried cranberries and dark chocolate. The first two ingredients made it in to these fantastically chewy and more-ish Christmas Marzipan and Cranberry Cookies, whilst the third ended up being eaten and enjoyed without any baking whatsoever!

I was next to get baking - I received some delicious dried figs all the way from Croatia, and used them to make this Fig, Almond, Lemon and Olive Oil Cake. I then indulged the baking fantasies of my eight year old self, and decorated the top with an icing sugar doily!

Next up, my Mum! She doesn't blog but is always up for a kitchen experiment (like mother like daughter...). I say she doesn't blog, but she did write a lovely guest post for me, detailing her baking exploits with the crystallised ginger and pecans she received as her swap ingredients. She used them to make some Ultimate Ginger Cookies, which with a little bit of butter icing became Ultimate Ginger Sandwich Cakes!

Jean who blogs at Baking in Franglais was sent some macadamias, dried cranberries, amaretti biscuits and a Santa Claus - so there was no doubt her creation was going to have a festive flavour! She used them to conjure up a  delicious looking trifle with a Christmassy twist - then as a kind of two-for-one bonus bake, rustled up some Cranberry, Macadamia and Orange Squares!

Next came Let Them Eat Cake who was sent walnuts, dried cranberries and cinnamon (a popular seasonal swap ingredient choice it seems!!). She used them to make these lovely Spiced Fruit and Nut Shortbread Biscuits, which would be perfect with a cuppa on a wintry day.

Dom at Belleau Kitchen was sent some cocoa nibs, which he combined with some exotic rose petal tea to come up with these beautiful Rose Tea and Cocoa Nibs Cupcakes. Reading his post for the first time, I have to confess to having some serious cupcake case envy - teeny tiny cases with little sprays of flowers which seem to shout elegant afternoon tea. Plus, mini cupcakes means you can eat two (or three, or four...) without any extra guilt, which is a good job, as they look very moreish!

Heading overseas now, to What's For Dessert, who made these stunning Mint Ganache Chocolates, after receiving some Kendal Mint Cake as her swap ingredient. I can't get over how perfect and shiny these chocolates look - amazing!

Heading to Italy this time, and Cooking Manu was sent some Scotch whisky and dark chocolate in her swap parcel. She used them to make a decadent Chocolate Whisky Cake. The pistachios sprinkled on top look so vibrant and are a beautiful touch.

Coming back to Scotland again, Please Do Not Feed The Animals went down a deliciously savoury route and cooked up a hearty winter warming dinner. She was sent some Lincolnshire Relish and used it to make a giant Lamb and Root Vegetable Mash roly poly style pie! Amazing - a complete meal in a pie and great comfort food for the cold weather that has just set in.

Claire - another non-blogger - was another lucky cranberry recipient! She used them to make an Apple and Cranberry Cake which sounds deliciously different - the base is made with spelt flour, and has marzipan kneaded through the dough, before being topped with fresh apples and dried cranberries - so many festive flavours in one slice!

Not to be outdone by my Mum, my Dad wanted to join in too! (Note - I didn't twist their arms - honest!). Now he is a prolific bread baker, but went down a sweeter route this time, and made a Lemon, Creme Fraiche and Chestnut Cake with the very adventurous swap ingredient he was sent - chestnut flour. The result was a lovely moist and pudding-y cake.

And last but by no means least, Cake Crumbs and Cooking was sent some dried mango and some coconut and cherry fudge. The fudge looked too tasty to cook with, so it was enjoyed unadulterated, and the dried mango was used to make some fantastic sticky Mango and Chocolate Flapjacks. And adding surely adding dried mango makes them more healthy, right? Or at least cancels out the chocolate ;o)

Now, if you're super observant, you might notice that I've rounded up 13 delicious cakes and bakes, and 13 is a number that doesn't easily lend itself to pairing up, without things getting awfully complicated. Number 14 has had a hectic time of exams and other such unpleasantness, but might manage to rustle something up now that that craziness has passed - and if she does, I'll update this post!

Thanks all for taking part - I hope you had fun - I certainly did. Wishing you all a lovely December, Christmas, New Year and beyond. Once we've made it through the festive chaos and out the other side into 2013, maybe we'll all need another little swap to cheer us up through the rest of the short days and long nights!