Tag Archives: cupcakes

Tea tasting with Kandula and a recipe for leek and smoked Camembert filo tarts…

After a strenuously indulgent weekend as part of my annual family ‘Easter Eat Fest’, I thought it was the perfect time to finish off a well overdue blog post about an event I did as part of the EAT Cambridge festival at the beginning of March. I was invited by Liz from local boutique B&B, Duke House and local tea company, Kandula to come up with an afternoon tea menu to complement 5 teas from their range for a tasting event for a lucky few guests at Duke House. It was a great chance for me to experiment with new dishes and cakes and to (hopefully) come up with the perfect match for the teas that had been chosen. I spoke at length with the Gail and Jane from Kandula, and they advised me of the flavours that would bring the best out in their teas. The final menu looked like this…

Kandula Tea and Afternoon Tease Menu

With the Ebony Ceylon I matched homemade wholemeal and white soda bread scones topped with delicate cream cheese and cucumber and smoked salmon, creme fraiche and dill. It’s a delicate tea that needed a delicate but savoury food to set it off perfectly…

Homemade soda bread scones

The guests really got into the event and spent time (in between mouthfuls) discussing how successful they felt each food and tea combination was…

Tea tasting guests

Next up we matched the English Breakfast with a new invention of mine…leek and smoked Camembert filo tarts. I was told that the English Breakfast tea was robust enough for a more strongly flavoured savoury dish and had recently been introduced to the existence of smoked Camembert so decided this was the perfect chance to put it into action. The combination of a light filo tart, leek, a creamy filling and melted, lightly smoked Camembert was an absolute winner! (see below for the recipe)…

Leek and smoked Camembert filo tarts

Kandula English Breakfast Tea

Kandula’s signature tea is their Pink Ceylon, a unique green tea with a beautiful pink colour, which won a gold star in the Great taste Awards 2011. It’s a wondefully delicate tea, perfect with Portuguese style custard tarts…

Portuguese style custard tarts

Custard tart matched with Kandula's Pink Ceylon

The next tea, was definitely my favourite, the Earl Grey, which is complemented by anything fruity or citrussy. I had opted for my lemon drizzle cakes topped with lemon curd cream and blueberries…

Lemon drizzle cupcakes with lemon curd cream and blueberries

Lemon drizzle cupcake with lemon curd cream and blueberries

and finally we matched the spicy Ebony Chai with my ginger chocolate shortbread topped with dark chocolate ganache and cristallized ginger…

Ginger and chocolate shortbread with dark chocolate ganache

It was a real treat for me to work on this event and in such a lovely location. I hope to do more in the future.

Now, without further ado, here’s the recipe for my delicious leek and smoked Camembert filo tarts…

You will need…

1 tbsp vegetable oil

2 leeks, finely sliced (I always make sure I wash them well in a colander once sliced in case there is any dirt or grit trapped between the layers. Be sure to pat them dry with some kitchen towel though or your tarts will be soggy)

1 garlic clove, crushed

2 fresh thyme sprigs, leaves only

3 free range medium eggs

200ml double cream

100ml milk

1 packet ready made filo pastry

60g butter, melted

1 smoked Camembert* (you won’t need all of this but it’s so delicious I’m sure there are many other ways you can find to enjoy it! 🙂

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees.

This recipe will make 12 small tarts using a 12 hole muffin tin but it can also be used to make 1 large tart using a 20cm (8inch) pie tin.

To make the filling…

Heat the oil in a large frying pan and cook the leeks over a medium heat for 10 minutes until soft (but not too brown). Then add the garlic and thyme and cook for a few more minutes before removing from the heat and setting aside for later.

Mix together the eggs, cream and milk in a jug and season with salt and pepper.

Now to prepare the filo cases for the filling…

Brush each hole of the muffin tin with a thin coating of melted butter.

Take the filo pastry out of it’s wrapping and cut it into squares large enough to fit into the hole of a muffin tin and come right up the sides. Once you have a stack of small squares of pastry, take 1, brush it with melted butter and lay another square on top of it at a 45 degree angle. Repeat this again with another sheet and another until you have 4 squares lying on top of each other but slightly offset to create a spiky edge. Gently take the stack of pastry and push it into a hole of the muffin tin, being careful to push it into the edges without  ripping it. Do this until you have filled all 12 holes.

Spoon some of the leek mixture into the bottom of each pastry case and then divide the liquid mixture between the tarts. Finally place a small square of smoked Camembert on top of each one and pop them in the oven for 25-30 minutes, keeping an eye on them to make sure the pastry doesn’t burn.

When they are done the pastry should be golden brown and the egg mixture set. Remove them from the oven. These can be enjoyed straight away or can be left to cool for a few minutes before removing them from the tin and leaving them to cool completely on a wire rack so they can be eaten cold…the perfect picnic food! I decided to warm mine through slightly just before serving.

*A quick note on smoked Camembert…if you’re Cambridge based, I know you can get smoked Camembert from River Farm Smokery, it’s also stocked in The Larder at Burwash Manor. If you are unable to find smoked, them normal Camembert would be delicious too or perhaps some Dolcelatte or Gorgonzola if you like a cheese that packs a punch!

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Halloween baking: mini spiced pumpkin & chocolate cupcakes with cream cheese icing…

Now, if I’m honest I’m not a big fan of Halloween. Being a complete scaredy cat isn’t particularly conducive to any sort of Halloween activity. However, I love an excuse for some good old themed baking and made it my mission to use the pumpkins that arrived recently in my veg box to do just that!…

I find that pumpkins are a lot less tasty than their butternut squash brethren and need a lot of spice/ cream/ sugar adding to make them taste of anything at all, which set me another challenge, to find a recipe that does justice to the humble pumpkin.

After a bit of online trawling, I found a couple of tasty sounding recipes which called for pumpkin puree. So, I set about making my pumpkins into puree…

To do this you need to halve your pumpkin, scoop out the seeds and stringy bits and throw them away. Place the empty pumpkin halves face down on a baking tray…

Bake it at 180 degrees for 45 mins to 1 hour until soft (you can test whether they’re ready by inserting a knife into the skin, it should slide in with no resistance)…

Let them cool a bit before scooping the flesh into a bowl…

You need just 1 cup’s worth for this recipe but I recommend measuring the remaining pumpkin puree into cup portions and popping it in bags or containers in the freezer for next time you fancy a bit of baking.

Now the first time I made this recipe I followed advice on the ‘how to cook good food’ blog and used dark brown sugar and added a tablespoon of rum along with chocolate chips and the results were divine…a deliciously moist loaf cake with a subtle rum kick…what’s not to like!

In my mission to theme it up even more I decided to make the recipe into cupcakes.

To make 1 loaf cake or 12-14 cupcakes you’ll need…

1 cup (240ml) pumpkin puree

120ml sunflower oil

2 eggs, beaten

1/4 cup water

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp mixed spice

200g plain flour

1/2 tsp salt

200g dark brown sugar

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

100g dark chocolate chips

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees and grease and line a 2lb loaf tin or line a 12 hole cupcake tin with cases in preparation.

Mix the cooled pumpkin puree, oil, eggs, water and spices together. I used an electric mixer but it would definitely be easy enough to do by hand.

Sift in the flour, salt, sugar and bicarbonate of soda and mix until it’s all combined but be careful not to over mix. Finally add the chocolate chips (and 1 tbsp rum if you’re feeling frivolous :).

Pour the cake mixture into the loaf tin or fill each cupcake cake until two thirds full and pop in the oven.

The loaf will take 50 minutes to 1 hour and the cupcakes will only take about 30 minutes. You can check whether they’re ready by inserting a skewer into the centre of the cake, if it comes out clean it’s ready. If not, pop it back in for a few minutes before checking again.

When your cake(s) are ready leave them to cool on a wire rack…

I used orange cupcake cases and decided I was going to turn my cupcakes into mini pumpkins by topping them with an orange coloured cream cheese icing…

To make the cream cheese icing you need…

450g icing sugar, sifted

75g butter, softened

200g cream cheese

Food colouring

Beat all of the icing ingredients together well and add as much or as little colour as you wish to get your desired effect. Then transfer the icing into an icing bag (I use disposable wonders, which are available in all good supermarkets) and using a large star shaped icing nozzle, swirl the icing onto the top of your cupcake. I finished my pumpkins off with a stalk made out of a chunk of dark chocolate.

And there you have them, the cutest little spiced pumpkin and chocolate cupcakes with cream cheese icing…

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Rosewater wedding cupcakes…a whopping 96 of them…

This weekend was a very proud time for me…not only was I a bridesmaid for the very first time, but my good friends Nic & Will had also given me the honour of asking me to make their wedding cakes for them! I’ve spent the last few months planning, list writing and doing taste tests in preparation but finally, after a whole week of nights spent tossing, turning and (eventually) dreaming about all manner of cake related disasters, the big day arrived! The bride and groom had decided on rosewater cupcakes, which I set about making on Friday. This, Ladies and Gentlemen, is what 96 freshly baked cupcakes look like…(I was sadly chuffed to be able to use my stackable wire racks 🙂

The next day, I was up early, I hired a car and made my way to Norfolk to Cliff Barns, the coolest wedding venue I’ve ever seen! It had it’s own dressing up room…

and ‘throne room’ dedicated to the Queen…

and the most awesome kitchen, equipped for every eventuality and made even better by the temporary addition of my KitchenAid…

I set to work making up industrial quantities of rosewater flavoured buttercream icing in white and pastel green to top my little army of wedding cupcakes…

Ansell, my very talented 3 year old helper kept me company (I was extremely jealous of his dinosaur apron!)…

The next day, the day of the wedding, it was time to set the scene. I’d brought along a vast array of cake stands, boxes, teapots, cups, saucers & plates to create the vision that I’d been planning. Here I am adding the finishing touches to it…

Before stepping back to admire the end result…

My friend, Reika, who lives in Japan sent over a hand-sewn bride and groom, which took pride of place…

and of course there was a bit of shameless self promotion 😉 …

The recipe I used was a very simple one, after a few trials I decided that to over complicate something that didn’t need over complicating was just plain silly.

So, to make a batch of 12 of my rosewater cupcakes with rosewater buttercream icing you need…

175g unsalted butter

175g caster sugar

3 eggs

175g self raising flour

30ml milk

1 tsp rosewater (I recommend Star Kay White Rosewater from Waitrose for flavour)

Preheat oven to 170 degrees and line a cupcake tin with paper cases.

Beat the butter and sugar together until pale and creamy.

Beat in the eggs. Followed by the flour, milk and rosewater. Make sure everything is well combined.

Scoop the mixture into cupcake cases, I highly recommend using an ice cream scoop like this. It will change your cupcake making life for the better!

Pop them into the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes until light brown and springy when pressed on top.

To make the rosewater buttercream icing you need…

400g icing sugar

200g butter

A splash of milk

2 tbsp rosewater (now this time I chose to use this Rosewater from The English Provender as it had a much weaker but more delicate flavour, which balanced the stronger variety used in the sponge) 

Simply beat all of the ingredients except the milk together well until light and fluffy. Add a small splash of milk a a time until you have a good consistency for piping or spreading onto the top of your cupcakes.

Once your cupcakes are fully cooled you can use your artistic licence to decorate them any which way you like!

I think they make the perfect summer cupcake and it appears that the wedding guests approved as somehow 96 cupcakes were devoured extremely quickly with the last few making it until the next day and providing the perfect post-wedding hangover breakfast! 🙂 

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Delicate pistachio and rosewater cupcakes…

I stumbled upon a bottle of rosewater in the supermarket the other day (not literally) and bought it on impulse with no idea what I was going to do with it. I scoured my collection of recipe books and found a recipe for pistachio and rosewater cupcakes in my book of 500 cupcakes and muffins.

I felt quite nervous baking with rosewater for the first time and was cautious with quantities as I didn’t want my cupcakes tasting like a bowl of pot pourri. The sponge was very light and the cream cheese and pistachio frosting was delicious but the delicate flowery taste of the rosewater was barely discernible. I’ll definitely be braver and add more next time.

To make these delicate pistachio and rosewater cupcakes you will need…

225g unsalted butter, softened

225g caster sugar

225g self-raising flour

4 eggs

1 tsp rosewater

Preheat the oven to 175 degrees and line a couple of cupcake tins with 18 cupcake cases.

Simply put all of the cupcake ingredients in a bowl and mix together with a handheld electric mixer until it’s smooth and pale.

Spoon the batter into the cupcake cases. They should be approx 2/3 full.

Bake for about 20 minutes until golden. Leave to cool in the tins for a few minutes before moving onto a wire rack to cool completely.

For the icing you need…

200g cream cheese

175g icing sugar

2 tbsp rosewater

3 tbsp chopped pistachios

Use an electric whisk to mix together the icing sugar and cream cheese until smooth and creamy. I recommend sifting your icing sugar to minimise the chances of lumpy icing. Once it’s smooth stir in the rosewater and the chopped pistachios. Dollop a generous amount of icing onto your cooled cupcakes. The presence of the pistachio’s in the icing is a bit of a godsend…you’ve got no chance of creating a lump free, perfectly coiffured cupcake so just pile it on and be done with it! 🙂

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They’re not Terry’s…they’re my chocolate orange cupcakes…

If you’re a Terry’s chocolate orange fan, you’ll absolutely love these cupcakes from The Hummingbird Bakery ‘Cake Days’ book…

The added bonus being that you don’t need to battle with the sphere of chocolatey orange goodness to enjoy the taste! Is it just me or is it ridiculously difficult to segment a chocolate orange in a ladylike fashion?

To make your own chocolate orange cupcakes you’ll need…

70g unsalted butter, softened

210g caster sugar

105g soft light brown sugar

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tbsp finely grated orange zest

255g plain flour

50g cocoa powder

2 tsp baking powder

¼ tsp salt

240ml whole milk

Preheat the oven to 190 degrees and line a cupcake tin (or two) with cupcake cases. This recipe is quite generous, it made me 16 cupcakes.

Using an electric mixer, cream the butter and both sugars together until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one by one, followed by the zest and vanilla extract.

Sift the remaining dry ingredients (flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt) into the butter and sugar mixture on a slow speed, alternating with the milk until everything is incorporated. Then give it a medium speed whizz until smooth.

Fill the cupcake cases with the cake batter until they are two thirds full, don’t be tempted to overfill them or your cupcakes will end up with an unsightly ‘muffin top’!

Bake them in the oven for about 18 minutes or until the sponge springs back when pressed gently. I always err on the side of undercooking as opposed to overcooking and checked mine after about 15 minutes.

Once you’re happy that they’re cooked, remove them from the oven and leave to cool before frosting. 

For the frosting you need…

600g icing sugar

100g unsalted butter, softened

250g full fat cream cheese

60g cocoa powder

3 tsp finely grated orange zest

The recipe suggested using some candied orange peel, thinly sliced for decoration. Needless to say my local Tesco didn’t stock such a delicacy so I just did without.

Whisk the icing sugar and butter (try popping your butter into the microwave in a bowl for 30 seconds first) in an electric mixer on a slow speed until it has the consistency of coarse sand and there aren’t any big lumps lurking. Add the cream cheese and cocoa powder and turn the speed up to medium, mixing until the frosting is smooth and light. Finally stir in the orange zest by hand.

Smooth the chocolate orange frosting onto your cupcakes with a palette knife and if you were lucky enough to find candied orange peel you can use it to adorn each one. I hope that you’ll agree that they look sufficiently tempting without! 🙂

I didn’t think such a small amount of orange zest would provide such a delicious orangey taste…and as with all Hummingbird Bakery recipes…they are moist, light and deliciously more-ish!…

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Carrot, orange and sultana cupcakes…

Over the last couple of years my work colleagues have been spoilt rotten, sampling the fruits of my baking labours. Now with only a couple of weeks until I leave my job to move onto pastures new I’m making sure I bake them lots of goodies to cement my lasting legacy. Last week’s contribution to their calorie intake came in the form of delicious carrot, orange and sultana cupcakes…

To make these beauts you need to preheat the oven to 160 degrees and line a 12 hole cupcake tin with paper cases in preparation.

You need…

1 cup plain flour

1tsp bicarbonate of soda

1/4 tsp salt

1tsp ground cinnamon

2 eggs

3/4 cup sugar

2/3 cup corn oil (or similar)

1tsp vanilla extract

2tsp orange zest

1 cup grated carrot (approx 2 carrots)

3/4 cup sultanas

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda, salt and cinnamon into a bowl. In a separate bowl beat the eggs with the sugar until smooth and thick. I’m lucky enough to have a KitchenAid mixer but a handheld mixer or some good old fashioned elbow grease would do the trick!

Slowly mix in the oil, vanilla and orange zest until blended. Then stir in the flour mixture that you sifted earlier and finally add the carrot, sultanas and walnuts.

Fill each muffin case to about 1/2 an inch below the rim and bake for about 25 minutes until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Leave to cool for 10 minutes and then remove them from the tin to cool completely ready for icing.

For the frosting you’ll need…

1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature

170g cream cheese, at room temperature

1tsp vanilla extract

3 cups icing sugar

2tsp orange zest

12 walnut halves

Now, in the past I’ve tried using light cream cheese for cupcake frosting and…it just doesn’t work! It tastes fine but the consistency always ends up being too runny. So, I finally decided to stop fighting it and opted for full fat and I can vouch for the fact that it really does make a difference. In for a penny in for a pound eh?!

Use an electric mixer to beat together the butter, cream cheese and vanilla until smooth. Add the icing sugar and beat until smooth again, then rack up the speed and beat for another minute of so until the frosting is nice and light.

Stir in the orange zest and either use a piping bag with a large nozzle attachment to swirl the frosting onto each cupcake or, as I did, use a small palette knife or spatula to spread a good dollop of frosting onto the cakes, topping them off with a walnut half…et voila…

If you don’t hoover them all instantly, you can keep them in the fridge and they’ll last for a couple of days.

They were exceptionally moist and light and the delicate orange flavoured frosting was literally the icing on the cake 🙂 …

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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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The Dolly Parton of cupcakes

These are the Dolly Parton of cupcakes, artificially coloured, unashamedly vulgar and absolutely irresistible. (Xanthe Clay, Telegraph, 23 May 2008)

A while back, my work colleague, Dawn, asked me to make her some cakes to share with our whole department in celebration of her 50th birthday. I’m sure it’s obvious how much I love baking, but I love it even more when there’s a special occasion involved. I’ve been gagging to test out the red velvet cupcake recipe in the Hummingbird Bakery cookbook for ages and as the red velvet cake originates from the USA (where Dawn hails from) I thought this was the perfect opportunity. I also, only yesterday, had my first taste of an original Hummingbird red velvet cake and not just any old red velvet cake, this one measured a whopping 13 x 18 inches and had been lovingly ordered, personalised and transported from London to the middle of rural Huntingdonshire for my friend Marks 30th birthday! Once I’d tasted it I realised there was definitely no going back…

The recipe calls for 20ml of Dr Oetker red food colouring but I couldn’t get hold of any so I used concentrated food colouring gel, bought from Lakeland and it seems to have worked just as well…

I wasn’t having much luck today and discovered that my local supermarket doesn’t stock buttermilk either so I decided to substitute it with creme fraiche.

I made 4 batches of cupcakes, 46 cupcakes in total, one of which had to be tested by my resident guinea pig…Sal, my housemate, who actually went so far as to say that he thought they were the best cupcakes I’d made…ever! Praise indeed!

They truly are the Dolly Parton of the cupcake world and I love them! I just hope Dawn does too. That’s if I can get them to work in one piece…it’s going to be no mean feat single-handedly transporting 45 cupcakes through London on public transport…eek!

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Popping my Iron Cupcake cherry

Since starting my blog, I have spent a lot of time following other bloggers and seeing what they have to say for themselves. During one of my blog trawls I found out about Iron Cupcake, which is a competiton started in the USA, entered by both amateur and professional bakers. The idea is that ‘Each month, a theme or key ingredient is announced and entrants have to bake a cupcake that meets the theme or uses the key ingredient. You can be as weird and wonderful as you like, as long as you meet the brief.’

I love the idea of entering myself but wanted to suss out the format and see how strong the competition is before I take that plunge. Hence my recce visit last Monday.

Me and my friend were a little too keen and turned up a bit early to the Cuban in Moorgate, which actually worked out for the best as it meant we could watch the steady stream of bakers pass us clutching exciting looking tupperware cupcake holders. Registration for bakers takes place between 6 and 6.45pm but more importantly, eating commences at 7pm. When my excitement got too much we paid our £5 entry fee, were presented with an ‘eater’ badge and directed to the free tea and coffee.

It turns out we had chosen a most auspicious date to attend our first Iron Cupcake event as it was their first birthday…and the theme was ‘Celebration’. The array of cupcakes lined up along the bar were very impressive…

I don’t think we had quite prepared ourselves for the ‘harrods sale’ style scrum that took place once we were given the go ahead to start eating! It was insane! However much I may love cupcakes, I refuse to fight for them and instead took the more civilised approach of asking people at the front of the crush to pass the ones I had my eye on back to me, which they very kindly did.

We tried to make sure not to go too over the top and take more than we felt we would could realistically eat, unlike others who piled their plates high, took a tiny taste of each and then discarded the rest…that made me a mad!

We compiled a shortlist of about 6…

The ‘Happy Birthday’ cupcakes were very impressive and ended up winning the ‘Best decorated cupcake’ prize.

I loved this bakers idea of cupcakes baking her cupcakes in ice cream cones in a brilliant twist on the classic 99 flake. Unfortunately the reality was that it made the cones a bit soggy…I still managed to eat every last bite though 🙂 and they were awarded the best amateur runners up prize.

I completely fell in love with these pretty pink champagne cupcakes. The sponge was actually a delicate shade of pastel pink had was strawberry flavoured, they were filled with a white chocolate ganache and topped with pink champagne and strawberry buttercream. They looked so professional and classy and very rightly won her the winning prize in the Amateur category!

These 4th of July cupcakes were marbled peanut butter and chocolate sponge yummmm…they won the runner up prize in the professional category.

These popcorn cupcakes looked amazing….unfortunately they suffered from a case of style over substance as the sponge was disappointingly dry with a sickeningly sweet blob of marshmallow fluff inside that nearly tipped me over the edge of my sugar overload. However, I found myself nearly forgiving the negative aspects as the little pots of popcorn looked so darned good!

We also tried a dark chocolate sponge infused with creme de menthe and topped with minty butter icing. They were pretty powerful but extremely tasty. I’ve found out since that they were also vegan…for some reason I have always (wrongly) assumed that vegan cakes wouldn’t be as tasty but I was very impressed as it was really squidgy.

By 9pm we were suffering from sugar coma’s and I was feeling incredibly sick but it was most definitely worth it. A full run down on the event can be found on The Caked Crusader blog. I have been completely won over by Iron Cupcake and am already plotting an entry for July’s theme of nuts and seeds… watch this space…

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Mental Cupcakes

I love the excuse to bake birthday goodies and with two friends celebrating this weekend I was in my element! I was a bit short on time and as I needed to produce enough for 2 people I decided to do a big batch of cupcakes as they are so quick and easy. I use the vanilla cupcake recipe from The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook. It sounds quite simple and boring right?? but you’d be surprised how much simple cupcake recipes can vary….this one ALWAYS produces moist, delicious cupcakes. Now that I know this recipe is a dead cert I can have lots of fun with colouring….

I have christened these creations my ‘Mental Cupcakes’ – red (vanilla) cupcakes with black (chocolate) butter icing and just because I didn’t think they were quite gaudy enough I topped them with edible gold stars 🙂

And this is what you see when you crack open these bad boys……

Here’s the recipe for you…

Vanilla Cupcakes

120g plain flour

140g caster sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

a pinch of salt

40g unsalted butter

120ml milk

1 egg

1/4 tsp vanilla extract

The Hummingbird bakery say that this recipe makes 12 but when I use the standard cupcake cases sold in all good supermarkets I can only get about 10 out of this recipe.

Preheat the oven to 170 degrees.

Put the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and butter in a bowl and beat on a slow speed with an electric hand whick until you get a sandy consistency and everything is combined. Gradually pour in half the milk and beat until the milk is incorporated.

Whisk the egg, vanilla and left over milk together and then pour into the flour mixture. Continue beating until all incorporated but don’t over mix! At this stage I added some concentrated food colouring from Lakeland as it doesn’t water the mixture down and you don’t need to use too much to get a vivid colour.

Spoon the mixture into the cupcake cases until two thirds full and bake for 20-25 mins (I usually only do 20 as I like them good and moist). They should be golden brown and spring back when touched. If you’re in doubt, insert a sharp knife or skewer into the middle of one and it should come out clean.

Leave to cool before decorating.

Chocolate Butter Frosting

300g icing sugar

100g unsalted butter

40g cocoa powder

40ml milk

Beat the icing sugar, butter and cocoa powder in a bowl with an electric hand whisk at a slow speed. I always get in a huge mess at this stage and am saving up for a freestanding electric mixer like this KitchenAid beauty which comes with a shield so that my kitchen won’t get liberally sprinkled with icing sugar dust every time I bake :). 

Add the milk a little bit at a time. Once it has all been added and mixed in, turn the blender up to a high speed and continue beating until light and fluffy. Apparently the longer you beat it for the fluffier and lighter it becomes. 

If you want black butter icing it’s best to start with a chocolate base so that less food colouring is needed to get a deep colour.

I use an icing bag with a large plastic nozzle as I love the over the top cupcake look!

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