Cupcake of the month (July): red currant

I’ve not felt like baking in this baking heat, but yesterday saw a slight reprieve in the daytime temperature around here, a mere 24 degrees, so I seized the opportunity to sneak in July’s cupcake of the month recipe.

The cakes on the calendar this month were called ‘ruby-red’ cupcakes, and required red food colouring as well as cocoa powder to make a deep red colour. However, since we had red currants in the fruit and veg box this week, I thought that I’d make the cakes red by putting red currants in instead of the food colouring – as simple as that. The photos make them look more brown, but when you bite into them, there is lots of redness!IMG 1870

I also had some union jack cupcake cases left from last summer’s olympic and jubilee festivities, and I thought why not bake some cakes with lovely local British summer fruit in them.

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They turned out very well – the recipe makes quite a dense cake, very moist and tasty, as it has natural yoghurt in it. They weren’t too sweet either, as the red currants added a sharpness and the cocoa powder a bitterness as well as the sugar to sweeten. My testers approved, which is the main thing in our house.

Ingredients – makes 12

  • 130g self-raising flour
  • 100g sugar
  • 100ml yoghurt
  • 25g cocoa powder
  • 2 eggs
  • 100g margarine
  • 80g red currants
Drizzle
  • 50g margarine
  • 100g icing sugar
  • 20g red currants

Method

  1. Prepare a muffin tray with cupcake cases, and preheat the oven to 180ºC (fan).
  2. Cream the butter and sugar in a bowl until smooth and fluffy.
  3. Add the eggs and beat well.
  4. Add the flour and cocoa powder and mix until just combined.
  5. Add the red currants and yoghurt and mix until just combined.
  6. Spoon into the cases to about two thirds full.
  7. Bake for about 20 minutes until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean, and leave to cool.
  8. Meanwhile make up the drizzle by creaming the margarine, icing sugar and red currants together – I left a few lumpier bits of red currant for texture, but most of the juice went into the drizzle.
  9. Spoon it onto the top of the cakes.
  10. Eat and enjoy as fresh as possible.

Cupcake of the month (May): After Eight

Continuing my cupcake of the month feature baed on a cupcake calendar that I was given for Christmas, this month we have a mint and chocolate recipe, which I’ve given the name ‘After Eight’ for obvious reasons. The recipe on the calendar didn’t involve chocolate, but I think that mint and chocolate go so well together, particularly dark chocolate, that I couldn’t resist adapting the recipe to include it. I also made the cake mixture itself much less sweet than the recipe in the calendar, because the icing is very sweet – it tastes like butter mints or Murray mints – and the bitterness of the dark chocolate goes well with this.

After eight cakes

If you’d like to make these yourself, and I can assure you that they are yummy particularly after eight and the kids are in bed, here’s the recipe which makes 10.

Ingredients

  • 50g sugar
  • 160g self-raising flour
  • 20g cocoa powder
  • 150ml milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 75g margarine
  • 1 tsp mint extract
  • 75g dark chocolate, cut into large chunks
Icing
  • 50g margarine
  • 100g icing sugar
  • 1-2 tsp mint extract (depending how strongly minty you like it)
  • green food colouring
  • grated chocolate to decorate

Method

  1. Prepare a muffin tin by placing cupcake cases in the holes.
  2. Cream the margarine and sugar together until smooth and fluffy.
  3. Beat in the egg and milk.
  4. Add the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and mint extract and mix until well combined.
  5. Add the chocolate chunks and fold in until evenly distributed.
  6. Spoon the mixture into the cases to about 2/3 full.
  7. Bake at 180ºC for about 20-25 minutes until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.
  8. Remove from the oven and leave to cool fully.
  9. Make the icing by beating together the icing sugar, margarine and mint extract, and adding the colouring a little at a time until it gets as green as you would like. Mine are quite Shrek-like, but you may want to go for a more subtle green shade 🙂
  10. Spoon the icing onto the top of each cupcake and spread it around (you could pipe it, but I find that using margarine makes it quite runny compared to buttercream icing).
  11. Finish them off by grating a small amount of dark chocolate onto each cake.

Sweetie chocolate cookies

We’re (not so slowly) getting through all the biscuits and chocolates that we accumulated over Christmas! Lots of it is being consumed overnight as I feel pretty hungry in the night whilst feeding – this is a great time of year to be breastfeeding. What we do have quite a lot of still are sweets that Andrew was given, both when Joel was born and for Christmas. I don’t mind him eating a few occasionally, but there are quite a lot to get through, and at this rate he’ll still have some left at Easter when no doubt more will arrive! Walking past the freshly baked cookies in the supermarket gave me the idea to use some sweets by baking cookies, plus I had one lonesome egg to use up by the weekend, so this seemed like a good plan.

I’ve never had fruity sweets (as opposed to chocolate sweets like buttons or smarties) in cookies before, but I wondered how they would turn out, so took the risk and used Jelly Tots. They turned out brilliantly – I love the chewiness of the sweets next to the doughy cookie, and the different fruit flavours in the sweets next to the chocolate of the cookie. It’s not a complicated recipe, but the results are very satisfying, and perfect to devour with a hot cup of tea on a wintry afternoon. Why not have a go yourself, especially if you’ve got any Christmas sweets lurking?

Ingredients

  • 200g brown sugar
  • 100g white sugar
  • 170g margarine
  • 1 egg
  • 350g flour
  • 50g cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tube of jelly tots or other sweets

Method

  1. Cream the margarine and sugars in a large bowl until smooth and fluffy.
  2. Beat in the egg until smooth.
  3. Add the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and about two thirds of the sweets, and mix in until well combined, using your hands when it gets too stiff for the spoon.
  4. Bring the dough together into a ball and then shape with your hands into a long sausage about 5cm in diameter on some greaseproof paper.
  5. Wrap in the greaseproof paper and leave for 2-3 hours in the fridge until chilled and firm.
  6. Preheat the oven to 180ºC (fan) just before you take the dough out of the fridge.
  7. Cut the sausage shape into discs about 1cm thick using a serrated knife.
  8. Use the greaseproof paper to line two baking sheets, and place the discs of dough on these, spaced apart.
  9. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes, then take out the cookies and press a few sweets into the top of each one while the dough is still soft enough.
  10. Put back in the oven and bake for a further 5 minutes.
  11. Remove from the oven and leave to cool on the trays. Best eaten still slightly warm and very fresh!

Marmorkuchen – Mummy-sized and toddler-sized

One of the presents that Father Christmas brought for Andrew was an Ikea children’s baking set; it has a baking tray, pie tin, biscuit cutters, rolling pin and Bundt tin (if you don’t know what this is, hang on, I’ll explain shortly!) – all perfect mini replicas of my own adult-sized baking equipment. When he opened it, I thought the Bundt tin was particularly cute. This is a circular tin with a hole in it, to make ring-shaped cakes; it is a traditional shape in Germany for certain types of cake, and it’s there that I first saw such ring cakes.

When I was 14 and in Germany on the exchange trip organised by school, my exchange partner and I baked a Marmorkuchen, or ‘Marble Cake’ in its classic shape – the Bundt tin. We went on to become good friends and are still in touch today, albeit less frequently than back then when neither of us had such busy lives. For our wedding, she and her husband bought us some typically German presents, including a Bundt tin and a German cook book with various cake recipes in. I’ve mainly used this tin for baking Marmorkuchen, and when I saw Andrew’s mini version, I thought that this would be the first thing that we’d bake in it. We also made a Mummy (and Daddy) sized one at the same time!

So what is Marmorkuchen (Marble Cake) anyway? Don’t worry, it’s not rock hard, well not unless you do something seriously wrong! It’s a basic sponge mixture, half of which you keep plain (vanilla flavoured) and the other half of which you add cocoa powder to for a chocolate flavour. You layer each half of the mixture in the tin, plain first, chocolate second, and then use a fork to swirl them together, to make a marble effect once the mixture is cooked and you cut a slice from the ring. It’s a simple recipe which looks very pretty and a bit different from the usual sponge you might bake.

I’ve given the recipe below. I’m not sure where to buy Bundt tins in this country, but there must be some lurking online somewhere. It would work just as well in an ordinary cake tin or loaf tin, just without the interesting ring shape. The recipe is based on one in the German cook book that I was given, but slightly adapted – there is no rum in it, which, if I remember rightly, in Germany you can buy in little capsules for using in baking cakes such as these. I think it works without it though, as there is vanilla flouring in it anyway.

Ingredients

  • 300g margarine
  • 275g sugar
  • 5 eggs
  • 375g plain flour
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 25g cocoa powder
  • splash of milk

Method

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 160 C )fan) and grease the inside of the Bundt tin.
  2. Cream the margarine and sugar in a bowl until smooth and fluffy.
  3. Beat in the eggs until smooth.
  4. Add the flour, baking powder and vanilla essence and mix until well combined.
  5. Put half the mixture into the Bundt tin and spread it around to fill the ring.
  6. Add the cocoa to the remaining mixture and mix until well combined, and add a splash of milk if the mixture gets too stiff, to loosen it up.
  7. Put this mixture into the Bundt tin and spread it around to make a layer on top of the plain mixture.
  8. With a fork, make circular motions from top to bottom and back to top in the tin, so that the plain mixture below comes up and is swirled into the chocolate mixture and vice versa, all around the circle tin.
  9. Bake in the oven for about 50-60 minutes – check it is cooked by inserting a skewer and it comes out clean.
  10. Leave to cool in the tin and turn it out onto a plate when cool. Enjoy!

Chocolate and marzipan star cupcakes

When an email popped into my inbox the other day, from a friend asking if anyone could bake cakes and/or sell them to help her and her sister raise money for charity, I thought that I could help. Baking is a great way to keep Andrew from getting bored and makes a change from the DVD and youtube watching that goes on at the moment. And we get to help raise some money, so it makes it even more worthwhile. The charity they’re fundraising for is Asthma UK, which supports asthma sufferers and their families. My friend’s sister is asthmatic herself, and despite this she is running the London marathon in April as part of her fundraising efforts too – now that sounds much harder than baking cakes! 

As it’s nearly Christmas, I decided to go for something a bit festive but not the traditional mince pies etc. as we already have so many of them at this time of year. I think it’s easier to sell little individual cakes rather than whole ones or slices of whole ones, so I went for cupcakes. They are chocolate sponge, with chocolate chips, and have a marzipan star on top (that’s the festive twist, in both flavour and shape!) The star is held on with a bit of buttercream icing, and on top of the star there is a little swirl of glittery purple icing to finish it off. The sponge has ground almonds in, partly to make it a nice moist sponge, partly to blend with the flavour of the almonds in the marzipan. Oh and the cupcake cases are silver, to make them extra sparkly for the festive theme.

Andrew enjoyed helping me – he stirred the mixture a few times at different stages, and he rolled out marzipan and cut out stars (his favourite job). During our baking session, I noticed that he has a new phrase to say: “Mummy do it” and, more often, “Andrew [A-tar] do it”. I’ve given the recipe below, if you’d like a bit of inspiration to have a go at your own Christmassy cupcakes. This made 16 cakes. Enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 170g sugar
  • 170g margarine
  • 3 eggs
  • 100g self-raising flour
  • 50g cocoa powder
  • 20g ground almonds
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 100g milk chocolate, chopped into chunks (or ready done chic chips)
  • ready to roll yellow marzipan
  • 50g unsalted butter
  • 150g icing sugar
  • 1 tbsp milk
  • glitter sugar

Method

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180ºC (fan) and place 16 cupcake cases into muffin tins.
  2. Cream the margarine and sugar in a bowl until smooth and fluffy.
  3. Beat in the eggs until well combined.
  4. Add the four, cocoa, ground almonds and baking powder, and mix until well combined.
  5. Add the chocolate chunks and stir until evenly distributed.
  6. Spoon the mixture into the cake cases to about two thirds full.
  7. Bake in the oven for about 15 minutes, until risen and a skewer inserted in the centre of each cake comes out clean.
  8. Remove from the oven and leave to cool.
  9. Meanwhile make the buttercream icing by mixing the butter and icing sugar until smooth and stiff; then add the splash of milk to make it a little less stiff and a good consistency to work with.
  10. Spoon a small blob of icing (at this point without colour) onto each cupcake; then add the glitter sugar to the remaining icing (I chose a purple glitter sugar).
  11. Roll out the marzipan to a few millimetres thick on a board dusted with icing sugar.
  12. Cut out 16 stars, and press them down quite firmly onto the top of each cake.
  13. Finish by putting the remaining glitter icing into a piping bag and piping a small swirl onto the top of each star.