A bit of respite…

I haven’t done any baking for 3 whole weeks and have been getting severe withdrawal symptoms. Friday and Saturday night were spent in whirl of birthday and Christmas revelry so by the time Sunday rolled around I was well and truly ready for a bit of respite and some good old baking and recuperation. 

I decided to experiment with some recipes from The Cupcake Deck, which I was given for my Birthday but haven’t had a chance to use yet. I couldn’t decide on one, or two so eventually selected three cupcake recipes to make…

The recipes used US measurements, which meant that I had the pleasure of christening my new Matryoshka Measuring Cups I love them!…

First up, some very topical White Christmas Cupcakes

Snow white, moist, vanilla cupcakes topped with creamy, white chocolate frosting and white chocolate curls…

For the cupcakes – 

1 1/4 cups plain flour

3/4 tsp baking powder

1/8 tsp salt

3/4 cup milk

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/4 tsp almond extract

85g unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 cup sugar

3 egg whites, at room temperature

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees and line a 12 hole cupcake tin with paper cases.

Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl and set aside. In another bowl mix the milk with the vanilla and almond extract.

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer beat the butter and sugar until light in colour. The mixture will look grainy and lumpy but don’t panic. Turn the mixer down to a low speed and alternately add a bit of the flour mixture, then a bit of the milk until it is all incorporated and smooth.

In another bowl, whisk the egg whites until they are shiny and smooth and form soft peaks when you lift the whisk out of the bowl. Stir a third of the egg whites into the cupcake mixture and then add the remaining whites and fold in gently.

Fill each paper case to about 1/4 inch below the rim and bake for about 20 minutes until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean and the top feels firm.

Leave to cool whilst you make the frosting…

85g white chocolate, chopped

56.5g unsalted butter, at room temperature

112g cream cheese, at room temperature

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups icing sugar

Melt the white chocolate in a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, stirring until completely lump free. Put in a large bowl with the butter, cream cheese and vanilla extract and beat with an electric mixer until smooth. Add the icing sugar and beat for a further minute or so. Spread the frosting on top of the cooled cupcakes, mounding it slightly in the centre. It doesn’t need to look too neat as you’ll be covering it with gorgeous white chocolate curls…

To make the chocolate curls…

Line a baking sheet with greaseproof paper. Warm a bar of white chocolate between you hands and use a vegetable peeler to scrape curls from the block onto the prepared baking sheet. I actually put the chocolate bar in the microwave for 10 seconds bursts until I was able to create good curls that didn’t break up. Once you have about 2 cups of curls, put them in the fridge or freezer to set.

Finally sprinkle the curls onto your finished white Christmas cupcakes and there you have it…

Next up orange-glazed cranberry spiced  mini cupcakes

I’ve never baked with fresh cranberries before and had a moment of doubt after sampling a raw cranberry…it was horribly sour! However I decided to put my trust in the recipe and just go for it…

For the cupcakes…

1 1/4 cups plain flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1/4 tsp salt

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/8 tsp ground nutmeg

2 eggs

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup oil (I used sunflower but the recipe said canola or corn oil)

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp grated orange zest

1/2 cup sour cream

1 cup fresh or defrosted frozen cranberries, finely chopped

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees and prepare 36 mini cupcake cases on a tray.

Sift the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg into a bowl and set aside. Beat the eggs and sugar in an electric mixer until thicker and lighter in colour. On a low speed mix in the oil, vanilla extract and orange zest until blended. Mix in the sour cream , then the flour and finally the cranberries.

Fill each paper case to just below the rim. I managed to fill 36 little bite size mini cupcake cases but still had enough mixture to fill another 7 fairy cake cases as well. The small ones only took about 11 minutes  and the larger ones about 16 minutes but just bake until the top feels firm and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.

Let the cupcakes cool for a few minutes, whilst making the glaze…

1 cup icing sugar

3 tbsp unsalted butter, melted

4-5 tbsp milk

1 tsp grated orange zest

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Whisk the icing sugar, melted butter and 4 tbsp milk with the orange zest and the vanilla extract until smooth and syrupy. Add another tbsp of milk if needed to get the right consistency.

Turn the cakes out of their tins and prick each one 4-5 times with a toothpick or skewer. Spoon the glaze over whilst both the cakes and glaze are still warm so that the gooey glaze soaks right into the cake and forms a see through shiny layer. Let them cool completely until the glaze becomes firm.

The recipe tells you that you can arrange quartered fresh cranberries on top of each cake but bearing in mind how sour my cranberries had been I decided not to. 

The mini cakes might not look stunning but they were so moist and spicy and the cranberries proved me wrong and cooked down beautifully so that they weren’t at all sour. The only problem with these little wonders is that they are soooo moreish and too easy to pop in your mouth whole…yum…

Lastly, I decided to revisit an old fave, the hummingbird cake, in cupcake form topped with a yummy swirl of cream cheese frosting

1 1/4 cups plain flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1/4 tsp salt

1 egg

1 egg yolk

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup oil (as before I used sunflower but the recipe said canola or corn oil)

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 cup sour cream

3/4 tsp ground cinnamon

1 banana, mashed

1/2 cup chopped tinned pineapple, in it’s own juice, drained

1/2 cup pecans, finely chopped

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees and line a 12 hole cupcake tin with paper cases.

Sift the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt into a bowl and set aside.

Beat the egg, egg yolk and sugar in an electric mixer until thick and light in colour. Mix in the oil and vanilla on a slow speed until blended. Mix in the sour cream and then flour until totally incorporated and smooth.

Finally add the cinnamon, banana, pineapple and pecans to the mixture and fill each case to 1/4 inch below its rim. Bake for about 25 minutes until they are firm to the touch and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Leave to cool.

For the frosting…

113g unsalted butter, at room temperature

168g cream cheese, at room temperature

1 tsp vanilla extract

3 cups icing sugar

Beat the butter, cream cheese and vanilla in an electric mixer until smooth. Add the icing sugar and beat until completely smooth. I used the frosting straight away but found it to be a bit runny so I would recommend chilling it for a few minutes prior to icing your cakes.  When you’re ready put the frosting into a piping bag with a large star shaped nozzle and using a circular motion pipe a swirl onto each cake…and tadaa…

I took my array of cakes into work today and they went down a storm. They were all so moist and flavourful. The frosting wasn’t thick and claggy as you find with some cupcakes and the glazed cranberry spiced mini cakes were very festive but were a great alternative to a standard iced cupcake.

Now, all of this recipe typing and baking porn photo reviewing has made me decidedly peckish. I think it’s definitely time for a cupcake…the only problem is deciding which one to have! 

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