Tag Archives: cupcakes

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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