Showing posts with label cupcakes. Show all posts
Showing posts with label cupcakes. Show all posts

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Vanilla Boy Cupcakes

I am determined to get a post up here today if it kills me. It's not going to be Bircher Muesli (sorry, Clare), because that's for warm weather and we are once AGAIN in the deep mid winter here in the South East (or South West, it depends on how you peel the potatoes really). It has finished off my Busy Lizzies, and I am so annoyed about it I could spit.

Anyway, you're not getting anything Alphonso mango related either (for 'tis the season!), because I'm saving that until I have more time. So I'm revisiting the humble cupcake. With a good reason.

I was recently reading all about Green Goddess Dressing, dreaming of my dear San Francisco, and became suddenly and uncharacteristically jealous. I had realised, you see, that nobody is ever going to create and name a dish for me. And I'd really like them to.

No time to cry about it, dears. I'm only around for two days before flying off again. Instead, let's create a dish for me ourselves. I give you the Vanilla Boy Cupcake. For yes, I have been being referred to as 'Vanilla Boy' for quite some time now, and despite disliking it intensely at first (I don't like the connotations of its modern usage and anyway consider myself to be more of a Cinnamon Swirl kind of a brother), have learned to accept it.

So my recent and quick foray into the all in one method of cake making has been names, immodestly, by yours truly and for yours truly. Enjoy.

I have to stop here. Dinner is not going to cook itself.

Vanilla Boy Cupcakes

You will need:

2 eggs
125g self raising flour
125g sugar
125g soft butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp baking powder

100g soft butter
175g cream cheese
250g icing sugar
seeds from one vanilla pod

  1. Heat oven to 180°C and place liners in a 12 cup muffin tin.
  2. Put the first six ingredients into a bowl and beat until combined and smooth. Divide among the liners and bake for 20 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.
  3. Beat the next lot of ingredients together and use to ice the cakes. 
Can you tell I'm in a rush? See you soon for the mangoes!

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Butter Crisis Cupcakes

Some of the people who ate these think I am the kind of guy who arranges small blue discs of wafer to resemble roses on top of iced cakes. I hate to shatter dreams... But I ordered them online.

Oh my gosh, it's been ages.

And it's going to be pretty brief since it's late and I should really be going to bed. Work tomorrow and I need to sleep off a bad mood, since what should have been, and started out as, a wonderful day rapidly soured when I made the mistake of getting my hair did by someone other than the guy who normally does it. Some lady cut all my hair off! I am angry, upset and frustrated all at the same time. I haven't felt this bad since I watched Lust, Caution (which by the way, I really feel should have been named 'Death in a Quarry' instead).


Anyway... Tomorrow may yet be better.

I have a cupcake recipe for you today. It's one that has been around the web already, but I thought I'd share it since it's wedding season now, and there may be some of you out there who are planning on making wedding cupcakes for somebody, as I did recently. And I don't have anything else to post, so if you were hoping for duck à l'orange, you'd be better going elsewhere today.

It might really help you out though, since the recipe's yield is high considering the ingredients needed. The recipe I would normally use is made up of an equal weight of flour, sugar, eggs and butter. This one more than halves the butter and uses only one egg per dozen cupcakes in place of the usual two. It is the cupcake of mass caterers, and, Honey, it is going to save you a fortune.

Let's face it: the UK butter crisis is never going to get the sort of front page coverage it deserves, but it seems like the days of reasonably priced butter are long gone. On DDD, I couldn't let this pass without a mention. Frankly, I feel I should be wearing a black arm band. It is a sad day indeed when you have to consider the baker's margarine option. This recipe should push thoughts of trans-fats to the back of your mind though. What's more, even the buttercream icing has much less butter in it than the one I normally use. In fact, the more I think about it, the more I feel I should be screaming 'Home Bakers take note!'

Full disclosure (for you deserve no less): I made 138 frosted cupcakes and an 8 inch frosted and filled layer cake for less than £48 with this recipe. That included £8 worth of fancy pants cupcake wrappers, and a cake stand that cost £15.

You want to try it out for yourself, don't you? Be my guest. Just promise to let me lick the bowl.

Lemon Cupcakes with Vanilla Icing
(adapted from The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook)

You will need:

120g plain flour
140g caster sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
zest of one lemon, grated
40g soft butter
125ml milk, at room temperature
1 egg

  1. Heat oven to 170°C and line a 12 bun muffin tin with liners.
  2. Mix the flour, sugar, baking powder and lemon zest in a large bowl. Then add the butter and three quarters of the milk and mix with an electric hand mixer on medium speed until all the ingredients are moistened. Turn the speed to high and beat for a further minute.
  3. Add the egg and remaining milk; beat in on high speed for 45 seconds.
  4. Divide the (quite runny) mixture between the paper cases and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the cupcakes are well risen and golden brown.
  5. Remove from oven and allow the cakes to cool on a wire rack. Then make the frosting.
250g icing sugar
30ml milk, at room temperature
40g soft butter
1 tsp vanilla extract

  1. Simply beat all the ingredients together for 5 minutes on high speed, until creamy and fluffy. Use to ice the cakes.
(Special thanks to Dave Fletcher Photography for letting me use the top photo.)

Monday, 7 March 2011

Cake A Difference: Cardamom, Orange and Pistachio Cupcakes

The sexiest charity work I'll ever do.

I never break rules. Hearts, yes. Dishes, sometimes. But rules are there to be respected. Obeyed.

And yet... I feel like charity deserves a special rule breaking allowance. So for this year's 'Cake A Difference' for Bliss, the charity for premature babies that I support, I decided to bake my cupcakes in the wrong week. I figured that money's money at the end of the day and if I want to make a cupcake for charity outside of the week beginning 14 Feb, well that's my prerogative.

Besides, I almost didn't get involved this year, because - blech! - Harry Eastwood got in on the act and I just really can't bear her 'healthy cake' crap and that damned ridiculous book of hers. But, it's for the babies after all, so I put aside my disdain for an afternoon, and got out my hand mixer.

You may or may not remember that last year I made Red Velvet Cupcakes (REAL ones, Harry, real ones!) for Bliss and sold them at Mr. Other P's office (on account of my 'office' not really being suitable for cake sales). Well I did the same this year, only instead of those crimson beauties, I made up my own recipe for gluten free cupcakes, having learned that there was an anti-wheat contingent present in Rhondda-Cynon-Taff. What can I say? Everybody deserves a cupcake. Provided they pay for it.

I have banged on long and hard enough about how fabulous Rose Levy Beranbaum's book is on this blog before, so I'll spare you the details. But what I will say is that I have poached her mixing technique to make these cupcakes. It is worth it: they rise perfectly level on baking, and have a tenderly delicious crumb.

In fact, I want one now.

I used an ingredient - Dove's Farm Organic Gluten and Wheat Free Self Raising Flour - that I know US readers probably won't be able to get, and I feel bad about it. But let's remind ourselves that they get cake flour, Pam and Rose herself. It's all fair in the cake world.

I made another £50 for Bliss with these. Why not have a cupcake sale yourself? It's such a great cause to support.

Gluten Free Cardamom, Orange and Pistachio Cupcakes

You will need:

250g Dove's Farm Organic Gluten and Wheat Free Self Raising Flour
200g butter
250g caster sugar
250ml low fat yogurt
3 eggs
1 tsp ground cardamom
2 tsp vanilla

100g butter
200g cream cheese
500g icing sugar
1 tsp orange extract

chopped pistachios to decorate
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C and line two 12 bun muffin trays with cupcake liners.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together the flour and sugar. In another bowl, mix 3 tbsb of the yogurt with the eggs, cardamom and vanilla.
  3. Add the butter and remaining yogurt to the flour mixture, and beat with a handheld mixer on low speed until combined. Scrape the sides of the bowl and continue beating on high speed for 1 minute.
  4. Add the egg mixture in two batches, beating on high speed for thirty seconds after each addition.
  5. Divide the mixture between the liners and bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown and well risen.
  6. Cool on a wrack and make the frosting: beat the butter and cream cheese together until smooth, then add the icing sugar and beat until creamy. Add the extract, and use the icing to frost the cupcakes. Top with pistachios.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Pumpkin Carrot Cake Cupcakes

I am not a carrot cake.

People tell you that carrot cake was invented to use up gluts of carrots. I don't know if that is true or not (and we'll never know), but I figured that since I didn't have any carrots in the house recently, I could substitute a pumpkin and still get away with it. We had three lined up on the kitchen window sill, see, and I was worried I would have to dust them if they stayed around much longer.

I do dust. But not squashes.

As it happened, I didn't walk away from the experience entirely free of regret (I mean, have you ever tried grating a whole pumpkin with a box grater? Well, don't.), but that's fine; I take immense pleasure in celebrating my autocracy.

'I decide, OK? I say who, I say when... I say... WHO!'

(Name the film for five bonus cool points. In fact, it's nearly Christmas; make it ten.)

Flavour wise, though, pumpkin was a good choice. As was following Rose's recipe. Have I ever made so many recipes from a single volume? I doubt it. They should call her 'The Cake Lady', if they don't already.

Recently I was delighted to be proven right when I said that I thought a cookie recipe I posted would be one people actually got up and made, and I think this cake should have the same effect. I know a lot of people have carrot cake recipes that they think are 'the ultimate', the 'ne plus ultra', the 'best', and so on and so forth, and to them I say this:

'You are wrong'.

For until you've added cocoa to the batter mix (and, let's face it, changed the carrots for pumpkin), well, basically you just don't know. So there.

I made one full quantity of Rose's recipe and was delighted to find that it made enough for me to make one big cake to take home to the family for the weekend (12+ servings), and a tray of 12 cupcakes to freeze for later. It's what I'd call an investment.

If you're visiting family this weekend, and have a sister like mine (who basically tells me not to bother coming if I'm not bringing cake), I recommend you seek out that box grater and get the oven on.

Classic Carrot Cake (but without carrots!)
adapted from Rose's Heavenly Cakes

300g plain flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp cocoa powder
2 tsp cinnamon
300g caster sugar
100g soft brown sugar
315ml vegetable oil
4 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
450g grated carrots or pumpkin (unpeeled)

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C and grease and line 2 x 24cm cake tins, or make one cake that size and use a 12 hole muffin tin for the rest of the mixture.
  2. In a large bowl, place the flour, salt, bicarb, baking powder, cocoa, cinnamon and sugars and mix gently together with a wire whisk to ensure the leavenings are evenly distributed.
  3. In another bowl, mix the oil, eggs and vanilla. Add the wet ingredients to the dry, and mix thoroughly. Then fold in the pumpkin (or carrots), and divide the batter amongst the tins.
  4. Bake for about 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean and free of crumbs. The cupcakes will take about 30 minutes only.
  5. Frost the cakes when cool with white chocolate cream cheese frosting. Remember to lick the bowl.

Monday, 14 June 2010

Vegan Chocolate Cupcakes

Originally posted on the fabulous Ko Rasoi. Enjoy!

This cherry is absolutely necessary.

I'm in a bit of a bad way; these cupcakes have made me question everything I thought I knew about baking and cake. Basically, for me it feels as if the whole world has been turned upside down at the moment.

You see, they are eggless. If you don't bake very much, that might not sound like a big deal, but I promise you it is. It's a big a deal as you can get. I remember learning in Home Economics at school that the lecithin and fat in egg yolks were what gave texture to cakes, and that eggs also acted as a leavening agent, so it never even occurred to me that you could bake without them. I thought they were essential.

Reader: I was wrong.

(An aside: Have I ever told you that I wasn't allowed to take Home Economics at GCSE level in school? Nope. We boys had to do Craft and Design, which I was bitter about for years. I'm over the sexism now though. On reflection neither subject has really shaped my life anyway, and having done CDT at least I know how to use a lathe and make egg cups using a vacuum former. I'm such a manly baker...)

Cherry or no cherry? We're going to need a point of comparison for this...

Back to the eggs: I've heard about this eggless baking lark, and it seems like all the cool kids are doing it. But up until now I've resisted. Some of the recipes call for ingredients that I'd have to buy from ultra pricey health shops (I have a bad habit of spending more money than is reasonable in those places - manuka honey anybody?), or wouldn't use for anything else afterwards (like skimmed milk powder for instance). But then I chanced upon a Depression Era cake recipe on a brilliant little blog I follow, Let Her Bake Cake.

A Comparitive Study of the Relative Beauty of Two Eggless Cupcakes

It has no eggs or butter in it, and yet still looks like one of the best chocolate cakes you could ever make. And even better, all the ingredients are cheap, store cupboard staples that I had in the house anyway. I was all set to become one of the cool kids; it would be just like when I was given my first shell suit.

As a result, I am extending an open invitation to The Cool Kids' Club to all of you, in the hope that you too will try these out. I am not vegan, and I don't avoid eggs generally (which is good, because Mr. Other P adds eggs to everything - curry, pasta, noodles, you name it.), but I am planning on making these again. They are not only the simplest cupcakes I have ever made ( and ridiculously so), but also the cheapest. I'll be honest - warm from the oven, I could detect a slight after taste of bicarbonate of soda, but once the cakes had cooled, it completely vanished. I can't wait to try out some different variations of the recipe and am thinking lemon first and foremost.


I have tinkered with the original recipe to make these spiced chocolate cupcakes, since they are for the Queen of the Spice Trail, and also completely changed the method used to make them. Mainly because I was making cupcakes, and not a sheet cake. But also because I like to simplify. It's OK, you can trust me; like I said before, I can operate a lathe.

I don't care if you are vegan, eat eggs, have allergies or don't even like cupcakes. Tell me that this isn't the most perfectly topped cupcake you've ever seen. You can't, can you?

My frosting is not vegan. It is cream cheese. But my friend Lucy used to run a company that made allergy-friendly cakes, so I stole her vegan butter cream recipe for those of you who are anti-lactose. You must decide for yourself which one to use.

I metricated the recipe: love me, love me.

Chocolate Spice Cupcakes

You will need:

225g plain flour
150g caster sugar (or granulated)
35g cocoa powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp salt
75ml vegetable oil
1 tbsp cider vinegar (use whatever type you have)
2 tsp ground allspice
300ml water

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C. Line a cupcake tin with 12 paper liners.
  2. In a large bowl, mix the dry ingredients gently. You can use a wire whisk.
  3. Add everything else, and whisk to mix everything to a smooth, lump free batter. It will be very liquid.
  4. Transfer the batter to a jug, and pour into cupcake liners, filling each about 3/4 full.
  5. Bake for about 25 minutes, until a cocktail stick inserted into the centre of a cupcake comes out clean.
  6. Remove from pan immediately and cool on a wire rack. Then ice with your choice of frosting. That's right - you have a choice:

Allspice Cream Cheese Frosting

You will need:

100g cream cheese
30g butter
400g icing sugar, sifted
1 tsp ground allspice

  1. This was going to be green cardamom cream cheese frosting, but my pods were all dried up. I was devastated, but adapted the recipe and like it this way anyway. Cream the butter and cream cheese together, and slowly mix in the sugar until you get the consistency you like.
  2. Stir in the spice, and use immediately. This is a lovely, thick, rich icing. Enjoy it!

Lucy and Nuria's Vegan Version

You will need:

100g soy margarine
250g icing sugar
1 tsp allspice

  1. Cream everything together using a wooden spoon; that's it! (This is such a great icing.)

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Emergency Sprinkles!

We've all been there. I will not accept, however you plead, that even one of you, not a single one, has never had the misfortune of being in that terrible situation of knowing you need a gift for somebody and have no time to go shopping. It might be a birthday party that crept up on you, it might be that you're going to see your pregnant sister who's about to drop her first child or it might even be both.

(For me, it has been both in the last few weeks. Remain calm: I am a survivor.)

Nobody likes being in these situations. And unless you own your own boutique, I think the only way out of them is to keep a well stocked larder (flour, sugar, eggs and what-not), and above all, some marzipan, food colourings and one of these cutters. Friends: we are going to bake our way out of this mess. Roll up your sleeves, and get out your mixing bowls.

Actually, you don't even need to make the cake yourself. I don't care if you buy one. But making your own sprinkles is going to make it look as though you didn't forget the occasion, but rather, had the foresight to plan a little cake-off to mark it.

This is going to change your life; pay attention.

Get yourself some marzipan, just a little chunk. Colour it; roll it out on a flat surface dusted with icing sugar.

Start stamping away with your cutter. Mine is a heart shape, but they have a whole range. You could get quite carried away.

Admire your handiwork, but not for too long... Time's a ticking.

If you want, add glitter and do different colours. Now run to the party and thank me later.

Disclaimer: I did not forget my sister and her baby. I just didn't think about baking anything until the last minute. Do you think I'd forget something like that? What do you take me for?

Thursday, 1 April 2010


(We're going Spanish today. Enjoy!)

One of the things that shocks (and sometimes appalls) me on a lot of food blogs I read is the use of boxed cake mixes. Some of the most beautiful creations I have ever seen on the Internet - elaborate wedding cakes, the prettiest cupcakes, cake pops and all kinds of desserts - sanction the use of box mix. I am not going to link to the blogs I'm talking about, because I don't want to start any fights, but I really don't understand why people who like cooking and baking would do it. You can't call it home made if it came from a box!

I wanted the Techicolour Chicks to be in my macaron photos, but forgot about them.
So I gave them a starring role here.
(left to right: Suzie, Barbara and Twinkle)

So, today's post is for all the mix users out there. I'm going to tell you how to make delicious cake, or cupcakes, in the same time it would take you to make a cake using boxed mix. There's no creaming, no beating, and there's none of the artificial rubbish you get in the boxes (said the man who made Rocky Horror Cupcakes - well, none of us, are perfect).

The recipe is Spanish, and comes from a colleague of mine, Maria. When I worked in an office, I used to take cakes to work all the time (if I worked in your office, you'd probably hate me - we'd all be fat, and it would be my fault!). Now that I work on jet planes (the glamour!), it's rather tricky to bring a little slice of something to work. Just recently though, Maria managed to do exactly that, and shared with me a piece of the lightest, yellowest, most delicious lemon cake I think I've ever had. And when she told me the recipe, I nearly laughed: it's the simplest thing ever, as easy as counting to four. Even if you'd never made anything in your life except cups of tea, you could turn this out perfectly.

It makes a mean cupcake too.

Apparently, this bizcocho is well known all over Spain; people have it for breakfast. I had never heard of it. But then, I'm not Spanish. The first ingredient is a pot of yogurt, which once emptied, becomes a measuring vessel for the other ingredients. It's not dissimilar to Clotilde Dusoulier's yogurt cake, except that hers, though lovely (I used to make it quite often a few years ago), is not a spectacularly easy recipe to remember. Maria's bizcocho is, literally, 1-2-3-4. Done.

Told you it was a yellow cake.

You can use any type of yogurt you like, and flavour it however you want. It can be baked as a loaf, in two layers, or as cupcakes. While baking, it will make the house smell like a home, and, best of all, you won't need to get the scales out (I'm always mindful of my American readers!).

Stop using box mixes! I promise, once you try this, you'll be hooked.


You will need:

1 yogurt (I use 'Activia', the natural one, in the size that comes in packs of four)
1 yogurt pot measure of oil
2 yogurt pot measures of sugar
3 yogurt pot measures of flour
4 eggs
1 tsp baking powder
1 lemon (optional - flavour it however you like)

  1. Are you ready for this? It's complicated. OK, oil and line your cake tin (I make this in a medium loaf pan), or line a muffin tray with paper cases. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C.
  2. Pour the yogurt into a bowl.
  3. Fill the empty pot with oil (any kind - olive would be good, I used regular vegetable and no-one died), and add it to the yogurt.
  4. Add two measures of sugar (you might want to rinse the pot first).
  5. Next, add the eggs, and if using, the chopped zest of the lemon. Mix everything together, by hand. In ten seconds, you'll have a smooth yellow mixture.
  6. Add the flour and baking powder, and stir through until combined.
  7. Pour this mixture into your tins, and bake until a tooth pick inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean.
  8. You can mix the juice of the lemon with 2 measures of icing sugar to make a glaze for the cake if you like. I did, and recommend it highly.
NB: This makes one loaf cake, and four cupcakes in my tins. The loaf takes 45 minutes in the oven, and the cupcakes about 30.

Friday, 26 February 2010

Smurf Cupcakes

(Or, dessert 2 of 2 when we Smurfed a little party for Rowanne's Un-Birthday!)

I was something of a hoarder as a child. Nothing gave me greater pleasure than to keep all my special gifts wrapped, unspoilt and above all, in their original packaging, not even taking them out for long enough to play with.

I remember, one birthday, I was given a 'Grow Your Own Crystals' science kit, and though I longed to watch the bright, almost neon blue crystals magically appear on the thread you were supposed to suspend in copper sulphate solution, I never dared to do so, for fear of ruining the box it came in (which was full of little compartments for everything to go in - just the kind of complicated packaging a boy like me loved!).

How lame was I?

Still, it was more than likely better that way; years later, when I learned about displacement reactions in Chemistry, I remembered that birthday box of chemicals and was secretly glad I'd never opened it. I was the sort of child who would have drunk the solution.

Incidentally, Mr. Other P also had one of those kits, but he actually did grow crystals with it. We don't talk about it very often though, as during one particularly fraught childhood argument with his brother (who we'll call Mr. D), they were flushed, unceremoniously, down the toilet. It is a tale of great sadness, I am sure you'll agree. Worthy even of Tolstoy himself.

I digress.

Sadly, the hoarding has followed me into adulthood. I have a baking box, full of all manner of sugar decorations, cupcake wrappers, candles, and as regular readers will already be aware, Kewpies. In this box are several pots of coloured sanding sugars, which rarely get used (I impulse buy), and in particular a blue one, which greatly resembles copper sulphate as it happens, so perhaps that wasn't such a pointless digression after all.

I had been waiting for a chance to use it when I happened upon this bag of Smurf marshmallows - tell me you aren't as enchanted by them as I was - and knew that a batch of blue cupcakes was only mere moments away.

I have titled this photograph The Outcast.

I couldn't really see the appeal of The Smurfs when I was a child, much preferring Peanuts, or He-Man and She-Ra, but I have grown fonder of them as I have grown older, secretly lusting after my friend Al's collection of 1980s Smurfs themed Nutella pot glasses. More to the point, they are the only thing that would look at home on a sparkling blue cake, so you can see why my appreciation for the cartoon characters has increased.

Bored of my usual cake recipe, I tried a new one for this, and it's one that I have been contemplating for years. It involves adding boiling water to the cake batter - you can see why I was curious - and in the picture accompanying the recipe book it is from, it looks like the most amazing chocolate cake ever. But it wasn't; it was dry and it was awful. So I am not going to include it here. Or tell you where it was from, as the writer of the book in question is my absolute favourite, and I don't want to murk the waters of her reputation. You do understand.

It does give me a chance to give you a little tip though, should you care to know how I deal with dry cakes. I drench them, either in Bailey's Irish Cream, or vanilla sugar syrup. So if it ever happens to you too, do not despair: the answer is in the liqueur cabinet. Or the pantry, if you choose the syrup. I don't want to be seen to encouraging alcoholism.

You can have the icing recipe, since that was yummy.

Peppermint Cream Cheese Icing

You will need:

150g cream cheese, at room temperature
350g sifted icing sugar
1/8 tsp peppermint extract
  1. Simply beat everything together until creamy and smooth.
  2. Slather over your waiting cakes - this should do 10 cupcakes, but I do use a lot, so you may get more.

If you are then going to cover the cakes with sanding sugar, I recommend you pour it onto your work surface first, and dip the frosted cakes into it, rather than trying to sprinkle it on. But you do as you please. I'm not in charge.

A beautiful out-take.

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Cake A Difference

A while ago now, my auntie emailed me to let me know about a charity that I'd never heard of before called Bliss. I suggest you take a look around their website for more information, but simply put, it's a charity especially for premature babies.

One in nine of the babies delivered in the UK each year is born premature or sick. You don't need to be a great mathematician to work out that that equates to a lot of poorly babies to look after. Which is good, because I am no great mathematician! I was premature though, and according to my mum, had a tough old time of it as a result. So you can see why I was really happy to learn about a charity that is dedicated to improving the care and treatment provided for babies that are 'born too soon, too small and too sick to cope on their own.'

Last week, Bliss held a nationwide campaign to raise money called Cake A Difference. The campaign forms part of their annual fundraising appeal, Kiss for Bliss. This isn't just clever rhyming. Think about it: a kiss is such an instinctive way to show love or affection. Imagine if you were unable to kiss or touch your newborn baby?

The deal is, through baking and selling cupcakes (symbolising sweet kisses), participants can raise funds that Bliss will use to help families through what must be a very lonely and frightening time.

That is the idea; frankly, I was on board from the moment I realised there was an excuse to make cupcakes. And if that makes me charitable, well, it's possibly the best thing that's ever happened!

I had intended to make cakes for Mr. Other P to sell at work on Friday - Romantic Red Velvets for St. Valentine's Day, of course - but owing to a roster change, had to delay. So I'm baking them today, and they'll be sold tomorrow. You may wonder why I'm not selling them at my place of work, but if you think about it, the answer's simple. Can you imagine trying to get three dozen cupcakes through airport security?


Wish me luck selling them all. It's certainly a worthy cause! If you yourself are interested in following suit and holding a sale, see the Cake A Difference website. Or if you'd just like to make a donation to Bliss, you can do so here.

Friday, 29 January 2010

Red Velvet Cupcakes

You'd be smiling too, if you were that close to a red velvet cupcake.

It may seem that I've come over all Valentine's and lovey-dovey, so I would just like to clarify up front that this is not the case. These are not Valentine's Day cupcakes, and nor will they be. Though you could make them for that, if you wanted. Or for any number of occasions. Voluntary Redundancy cupcakes perhaps?

No, these are belated birthday cupcakes. Lucy had her birthday last week, and you can't have a birthday without cake. It's the law.

Lucy likes red velvet. I know that sounds like the title of some smutty film, but it's true: she told me so. And if you can't have a bit of what you like on your (albeit belated) birthday, then when can you?

I stopped myself taking too many photos of
these - nobody wants to eat cupcakes that
have been messed about with!

I was going to make the recipe from The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook, which Mr. Other P would have approved of - he loves red velvet too - but have been noticing a new name cropping up all over the Internet recently that seems to be synonymous with red velvet cake: Rose Levy Beranbaum.

I don't think you can help wanting to bake the cake recipe of someone with a name like that. And more to the point, my inner baker was desperate to give it a go based purely on the method, which is unusual, or seemed so to me.

I lifted the recipe from a website, but am so impressed with the results, and accuracy of the instructions - do what Rose tells you to and follow the times given, and there's no way you could mess this up, even if you'd never baked anything in your life other than potatoes - that I've ordered the book this recipe came from, Rose's Heavenly Cakes. Consider this my recommendation. I had to make a few ingredient substitutions though so this recipe is my amended one.

A final word, which you can ignore altogether if you want, but I suggest you don't. Go easy on the sprinkles and decorations. The beauty of red velvet is in the contrast between vibrant, crimson-red cake, and gleaming, fresh, white icing. Anything more than a light dusting of red harlequin sugar or hundreds and thousands, and your cupcakes will become little more than the edible personification of that friend you have who always has bad hair, and you never quite have the heart to be honest with. People will tell you they look beautiful, but they won't really mean it.

Do you want that for your cupcakes?

Red Velvet Cupcakes

You will need:

3 large egg whites
1/2 tsp red food coloring paste (or one whole bottle of liquid colouring)
seeds scraped from one vanilla pod (or 2 tsp vanilla essence, which I didn't have)
175g plain flour
25g cornflour
200g caster sugar
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cocoa
60ml vegetable oil
55g unsalted butter, at room temperature
125ml plain natural yogurt (or 125ml buttermilk)

100g cream cheese
30g butter
400g icing sugar, sifted

red harlequin sugar or hundreds and thousands
  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C. Line a 12 bun cupcake tin with paper wrappers (you will actually get 15 cupcakes from this mixture, so may need to bake twice).
  2. In a mixing bowl, lightly mix together the egg whites, vanilla seeds (or essence) and red colouring. You will be amazed and/or horrified at the colour.
  3. Sift the flour, cornflour, sugar, cocoa and baking powder into another bowl. I know that most recipes would say to cream the sugar with the butter, not sift it with the flour, but trust Rose. She knows. (That's what we used to say about my Japanese grammar teacher too - people called Rose are obviously very knowledgeable and trustworthy)
  4. Using an electric hand mixer, in a large bowl, beat the butter and oil together for one minute on medium speed.
  5. Add the dry ingredients and yogurt to the butter mixture, and mix together on low speed. Then, when combined, switch to high speed and mix for one and a half minutes. You should scrape down the sides of the bowl to make sure everything is incorporated.
  6. Add half of the bloodied egg whites. Mix on medium speed for thirty seconds, and then add the rest of the egg mixture. Mix on medium speed for another thirty seconds.
  7. Transfer the batter to the line cupcakes tins, filling each about three quarters full. Bake for twenty minutes until a toothpick inserted into the centre of the cupcakes comes out clean.
  8. Cool on a wire rack.
  9. Make the icing: mix the softened butter with the cream cheese, then add the sugar. You might not need it all - stop at the consistency you like. I like it thick and shiny, so add it all.
  10. Use the icing to frost the cakes - a palate knife makes pretty swirls.
  11. Sprinkle cautiously, and share.

Monday, 11 January 2010

Rainbow Cupcakes

These cupcakes may look normal, but they are hiding a pretty exciting secret.

I don't know if you have ever seen 'The Rocky Horror Picture Show', but I do know that if you haven't, you really need to - when I was younger, it was one of my favourite films (which may explain a thing or two, come to think of it).

I loved the craziness of it all, the bizarre characters and the glittering costumes. And most of all, I loved (and still adore) the music. Richard O'Brien really is a lyrical genius! My favourite part (save the scene at the dinner table, where Brad, Janet et al realise that they've been eating Eddie for dinner) was always where Frank N. Furter brings Rocky to life in the lab. I used to LOVE the way the fluid in the tank containing Rocky turned all the colours of the rainbow as the crazy, high-heeled and fully made-up doctor added various chemicals, creating the 'secret of life itself'. Looking at it now, it's hardly the most exciting of special effects, but it's still quite something to watch.

But what does all of this have to do with cupcakes? Well, not a lot. Not if you're talking about regular cupcakes. But that is not what these are. No sir, these are RAINBOW CUPCAKES!

You still might be thinking this has nothing to do with Rocky Horror,
but hopefully the photo shows where I'm going with this: the graduated rainbow
colours you can make out through the cupcake
wrapper are just like the colours in Frank N. Furter's tank, no?

I made these for Katy (she of azuki bean stew fame). She has a December birthday, which I always equate to being a bit rubbish. My step-brother has one too, and I have seen what happens time and again: birthday presents wrapped in Christmas paper (inexcusable!), joint Christmas/Birthday presents (lame!) and even joint parties. Hardly the way to make the birthday boy/girl feel special.

Anyway, I wanted to take some cakes to her party, and figured that rainbows were pretty far from what most people think of as Christmassy. Plus, like me, Katy's a child of the eighties, so there's always the Rainbow Brite connection for those who wish to make it. They were simple to do - just regular cake mixture, split six ways and dyed accordingly - and a fun way to spend an hour on a cold, dark afternoon.

Incidentally, I know that it's now January. I just forgot about the fact that I'd made these until now. Probably something to do with holiday hustle and bustle (and my sieve-like memory).

Whatever. I should say two things:

  • I stole the idea, shamelessly, from Aleta Meadowlark. But since I worship at the Alter of at least twice weekly, I know she won't mind. Plus, her rainbow cake is a layer cake - I have never seen cupcakes made like this before. Which brings me to point number two:
  • Apart from Lucy and Rich's wedding cakes, nothing I have baked has ever caused so many people to tell me I am amazing. I'm not pointing this out to big myself up - I'm just letting you know that you'll rock whatever party you're going to if you take along a dozen of these little twinklies. This is a fact.
Let's just have a quick run-through of the RAINBOW CUPCAKE making process, shall we?

First, you tint the cake batter in rainbow colours. We're lumping indigo and violet
together here - I didn't fancy mixing different shades of purple. (Yes, those are rice bowls)

Then you layer the batter into the cupcake liners...

And bake for 20 minutes, before cooling on a wire rack.

The surfaces look like craters on some far away rainbow planet! To me at least.

The Anatomy of a Rainbow Cupcake

I made them lemon flavour. This is not just because lemon is officially the best flavour cake can ever be, but also because the icing is cream cheese and I think the tastes marry quite nicely. You can make them whatever flavour you like though. People are more likely to notice the colours than the flavour anyway. Unless you think of a flavour to match each colour and add it to the coloured mixtures accordingly. I did want to do that, but it seemed like too much work. I concede though, that a six-flavour cupcake really would be a party in the mouth.


You will need:

175g butter
175g granulated sugar
175g plain flour, sifted
3 eggs
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 lemon, juiced and zested
food colouring in red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple

100g cream cheese
30g butter
400g icing sugar, sifted

hundreds and thousands to decorate

  1. Make the cake mixture following whatever method you normally use. I recommend, as always, the all-in-one; place the eggs, sugar, butter and flour (all at room temperature) in a large bowl, along with the baking powder and bicarb., and mix using an electric hand whisk until combined. Add the lemon juice and zest, and mix again.
  2. Divide this mixture equally into 6 bowls and tint each a different colour of the rainbow.
  3. Line a 12-bun muffin tin with paper wrappers, and add a teaspoon of each colour to each liner in reverse rainbow order. That's purple, blue, green, yellow, orange and red. (Clarity is important in recipes, after all.)
  4. Bake for about 20 minutes at 180°C, until a tooth pick inserted into the centre of one of the cakes comes out clean.
  5. Cool on a rack. DO NOT COOL IN THE TIN unless you want soggy cupcakes.
  6. Make the icing: mix the softened butter with the cream cheese, then add the sugar. You might not need it all - stop at the consistency you like. I like it thick and shiny, so add it all.
  7. Use the icing to frost the cakes - a palate knife makes pretty swirls. Finish with hundreds and thousands, and remember: less is more. You want the cupcakes to look sweet and innocent, so that the rainbow is a surprise.
Don't forget to Re-Invent the Lamington! Deadline 26 January.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Gift idea

No food today. In fact, not even a very long post. But I want to write about the gift Mr. Other P and I made for Bridie's birthday.

I wanted to buy her a cake stand. Cake stands are good gifts. You would never buy one for yourself, would you? The trouble is that they can be expensive. Or ugly. Or even ugly and expensive. Just like when you go shoe shopping, and look for the perfect shoe that you've visualised in your mind's eye, but never find it, shopping for a cake stand can be difficult.

So we made our own, using craft glue and some vintage blue and white china plates and sherry glasses we found in a charity shop. I'm not pretending that this was an original idea - I've heard of this being done before. But I think the end result is really good. This will look great bedecked with cupcakes, or sandwiches for afternoon tea.

If you fancy giving this a go... Use strong glue! And make sure all surfaces are clean and dry before gluing.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Chocolate-Peppermint Cookies and Cream Cupcakes

Another birthday, another excuse to go wild in the kitchen. There's another one coming next weekend too, so I'm in my element at the moment. I wish I could do birthday cakes every week!

This time it was a thirtieth, so there was an excuse to get the champagne out as well. I have never actually eaten cupcakes with champagne, and there was a little bit of me that wanted to exploit the connection and make a champagne cocktail flavoured cupcake. But when I saw what Mr. Other P had chosen to give Kate (whose birthday it was), that idea went out the window, though you never know when it might return.

He'd been into town and bought a big selection of American junk food from the food hall in House of Fraser. I love looking at all that stuff! There was some Hershey's fudge topping for ice-cream, a bag of Reese's Pieces (nearly snaffled those for myself), a box of Aunt Jemima pancake mix, some raspberry twizzlers, and a whole host of other things with exactly the right kind of gleaming, colourful packaging that makes junk food so attractive.

But something was missing. It took a while to figure out what it was, but I got there. Oreo cookies. Aren't they supposed to be America's #1? I might be making that up, but I'm sure I heard that somewhere. Probably written on the packet...

Anyway, there were a couple of reasons why there were no Oreos. The most obvious was the price of the damn things. Nobody's going to pay £7.00 for them, whether they are America's #1 or not. House of Fraser would do well to remember that. I mean, come on... Seven quid for biscuits?!

The second reason was that Mr. Other P doesn't like them. He thinks they're dry and tasteless, despite looking like they are going to be chocolaty and delicious. If pressed, I would agree with him, but I do still like them because they are always the biscuits you find in cookies and cream ice-cream. Which most people would agree is very, very delicious indeed.

So, since there were no Oreos in the birthday hamper, I decided to make Oreo cookies and cream cupcakes. And because I've had a bottle of peppermint extract knocking around on the shelf for a while, I decided to use that too. I don't think it's an obvious pairing, but it fits in with my new 'why hold back?' approach to flavours (as evidenced by this post), and more importantly, it works. It may sound immodest, but seriously, these are incredible. And yes - other people said so.

I should add, I didn't buy the £7.00 American Oreos. I got the 'Made in the EU' version that come in different packaging but taste the same. A bargain at 89p from the corner shop!

If you don't want to make the cupcakes themselves chocolate flavour, then don't. It's all about the frosting with this one.

Chocolate-Peppermint Cookies and Cream Cupcakes

You will need:

125g plain flour
125g butter, softened
125g caster sugar
2 eggs
30g cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarb. of soda

30g butter, softened
100g full fat cream cheese
250g icing sugar, sifted
1/2 tsp peppermint extract
1 packet Oreo cookies

  1. Line a 12 bun cupcake tin with paper liners, and pre-heat the oven to 180°C.
  2. Use my usual, lazy method to make the cake batter. Dump everything in a bowl and mix, adding a splosh of milk if necessary, using electric beaters, until creamy and combined. Use an ice-cream scoop to transfer the batter to the prepared tin.
  3. Bake for 20 minutes, and then turn the cupcakes out onto a wire rack to cool. If they've risen a lot (mine did), level the tops with a sharp knife, so they look pretty when you ice them.
  4. Make the frosting: Cream the butter and cream cheese, then slowly stir in the icing sugar. You might need a little less or a little more to get the consistency you want - don't be afraid to adjust quantities. Add the extract, and taste. You might need more if yours isn't as strong as mine. Crush 5 Oreos and mix in until nicely combined. You will be amazed at the beauty of what you have created!
  5. Frost the cupcakes, smoothing the frosting out evenly. It looks very pretty swirled, but you could pipe it if you prefer.
  6. Chop remaining biscuits in half, and use to top the cupcakes. Sprinkle with green edible glitter.
  7. Devour!

Friday, 2 October 2009

Conference Pear Cupcakes with Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting

I thought I'd kick off with a recipe for cupcakes. Baking is something I do under the guise of de-stressing all the time, although really my life is not fraught with sufficient tension to require me to bake as often as I do. I think it is more likely that I simply have an addiction to sugar! Whatever; this blog will likely feature more cakes and sweet things than savoury items. And that suits me just fine!

When experimenting with new cake flavours, I quite often find that I can't taste whatever flavour I was trying to emphasize strongly enough - it always seems muted against the background taste and texture of regular cake. So I am very happy to report that these cupcakes did not disappoint. The pear is there, in both texture and flavour, and comes through after the first hit of creamy caramel in the frosting.

The caramel itself comes from this, a product that my brother's parents-in-law left after a party at my Mum's house a while ago. It's from the States, and is really spectacularly yummy. I had four pots originally, and the first three were eaten with apples and ice-cream, but I wanted to try it out as a flavour in frosting too. Since I have none left (boo!), the next time I do this I'll probably just use a caramel flavour ice-cream sauce, or even some honey, which I think would go just as nicely with the pears, and is what I recommend for anybody who can't get Marzetti. Incidentally, the quantities below make only enough frosting for half the cupcakes. I usually frost only half of any given batch of cupcakes if I'm making a cream cheese based topping, as you should really keep them in the fridge, and I never seem to have the space.

The one change I would make to this recipe would be to add another pear. I didn't want too moist a cake to start a cake with, as I knew the frosting would be nice and gooey, and although I think the cakes are lovely as they are (they have a lovely fluffy texture), it would have been better to use up more of my pears!!

Pear and Caramel Cupcakes

You will need:

125g plain flour
125g caster sugar
125g butter
2 eggs
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 large pear, peeled, cored and grated

200g package full-fat cream cheese
1 small pot caramel apple dip or 3-4 tbsp caramel sauce for ice-cream
2 tbsp icing sugar, sifted

  1. Line a 12 cup cupcake tin with paper liners. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C.
  2. Place flour, baking powder, bicarb. of soda, butter, sugar, eggs and vanilla in a bowl and beat with an electric hand mixer until all is combined. You can go the original way, and cream the butter and sugar together, then slowly add the eggs and flour and leaveners if you like, but since you'll be adding fruit to the mixture, you won't get as light a cake anyway, so I don't see the point. If you don't have a mixer though, proceed à la Mrs. Beeton, with a wooden spoon, and consider the experience a work-out.
  3. Add the pear - try grating it into the bowl directly, so you catch all the juice. Mix.
  4. Transfer the mixture to the cupcake tin, trying to fill each indentation equally. I use an ice-cream scoop; aim for two-thirds full.
  5. Bake for 20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack.
  6. Mix frosting ingredients together in a bowl until just combined. You might not need the extra sugar, so add that last.
  7. Smooth over cooled cupcakes, and refrigerate until 30 minutes or so before serving.
I topped mine with fresh flowers from the garden. Less is definitely more here though - the flowers from my rosemary bush were perfect, and I think look very cute. But I'd lose the passion flower next time (see below). I think it's screaming for too much attention.

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