When I was packing up the recipe books the other day, I came across my cupcake calendar that has a recipe on for each month of this year. I said back at the start of the year that I would make a type of cupcake based on the cupcake of the month in this calendar each month, and I did until August. Then somehow I just forgot! I think the calendar got buried in all the books on the shelf and I’ve had lots of other crafty things to do, including doing more sewing projects (mainly nappy related).
So I thought I could just about squeeze November’s recipe in before advent begins. Tom was pleased because the recipe was for lemon cupcakes, and lemon is his favourite cake. The cake sponge is quite unusual in flavour and texture because it is made with soft cheese as well as margarine, and it does have an almost cheesecake-like flavour to it, though the texture is still more like sponge than cheesecake. I found that the amount of lemon suggested in the recipe wasn’t much, so I added quite a bit more than it said and we didn’t think it was overpowering.
I hope to be back for one last cupcake of the month recipe in December, depending on how packing goes and if I get time and space to think about it!
Ingredients (makes 6)
90g soft cheese
90g self raising flour
grated rind of half a lemon
50g soft cheese
120g icing sugar
grated rind of half a lemon
Prepare a muffin tin with some cupcake cases and preheat the oven to 170 C (fan).
Cream the margarine, soft cheese and sugar in a large bowl until soft and fluffy.
Add the eggs and a handful of flour to stop it curdling, and beat until well mixed.
Add the flour and lemon rind and mix until just combined.
Place the mixture into the prepared cupcake cases, and bake in the oven for about 15 minutes until golden on top and a skewer comes out clean when inserted.
When they are in the oven, make the icing, by mixing together the ingredients in a bowl until smooth.
Allow the cakes to cool completely before placing a teaspoon of icing on the top of each cake and letting it run across the top.
Eat as fresh as possible (I stored them in the fridge).
It’s that time of year again when my favourite TV programme is back on – the Great British Bake Off! In fact I haven’t watched any other TV all year; we don’t have a licence because since having kids we found that we never watched TV apart from one or two things that we could get on iPlayer the day after, and the GBBO is the only thing I’ve downloaded this year. I love watching other people bake – some impressive recipes as well as some that don’t quite go as planned – just ordinary people who enjoy and have a talent for baking.
Last week, the first of several rounds until the final, was all about cake. Mmmm cake! In the third round of three, the showstopper round, the contestants had to bake a chocolate cake with chocolate decorations. Coincidentally, the cupcake for August on my cupcake calendar is a chocolate one, so I thought it would be very fitting to bake come indulgent chocolate cupcakes this week, inspired by both my calendar and the GBBO. Last year during the competition I managed to bake something each week inspired by the theme of that week; I’m not sure I will get chance every week this year, but I’ll give it a go where possible!
These cupcakes have a very gooey, dense and fudgy consistency, and are very yummy. More of a treat for us when the boys have gone to bed than a snack for little ones! Here’s how I baked them…
Ingredients – makes 12
100g dark chocolate
80g brown sugar
1 tbsp honey
180g plain flour
25g cocoa powder
1/4 tsp baking powder
100g milk chocolate
90ml soured cream or creme fraiche
Prepare a 12-hole muffin tin with cupcake cases, and preheat the oven to 180ºC (fan)
Melt the chocolate, margarine, sugar and honey in a bowl, either in the microwave or over a pan of boiling water.
Weigh the flour and cocoa powder in a large bowl and add the baking powder.
Pour the molten ingredients into the bowl with the dry ingredients and mix.
Beat the eggs, add them to the large bowl along with the milk, and mix until well combined.
Pour the mixture, which is quite runny, into the cake cases until they are about two thirds full.
Bake in the oven for about 15 minutes until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean, and leave to cool completely.
To make the ganache, break the chocolate into chunks and melt either in the microwave or over a pan of boiling water.
Stir in the soured cream or creme fraiche until smooth and thick – chill in the fridge if it’s still a little runny to help firm it up.
Spread over the top of the cupcakes to finish them.
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!
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.
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
25g cocoa powder
80g red currants
100g icing sugar
20g red currants
Prepare a muffin tray with cupcake cases, and preheat the oven to 180ºC (fan).
Cream the butter and sugar in a bowl until smooth and fluffy.
Add the eggs and beat well.
Add the flour and cocoa powder and mix until just combined.
Add the red currants and yoghurt and mix until just combined.
Spoon into the cases to about two thirds full.
Bake for about 20 minutes until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean, and leave to cool.
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.
This month my cupcake calendar came up with a more unusual type of cupcake, one which I’d never thought of doing before. The idea was to make little cheesecakes in cupcake cases – an actually very simple idea, but not something I’ve seen before. I didn’t follow the recipe in terms of ingredients much, I just used a basic baked cheesecake mixture that I’ve done before, but made it in cupcake cases instead of a large cake tin.
I wasn’t sure how they would turn out, but in the end they worked pretty well. A few had issues coming out of the tin – I think the key was to make sure no mixture spilled over the side when I poured it in or during the baking as the mixture rose slightly, because this left a sticky residue between paper and tin. The taste was delicious, just like any other baked cheesecake. These would be handy to serve at a buffet or party where there are lots of different choices and you’d like to try a little bit of a few things – no more trying to cut a small slither of a big cheesecake and it ending up disheveled!
Here’s the recipe…
200g digestive biscuits
200g soft cheese (Philadelphia-style)
100ml soured cream
2 tsp vanilla essence
blueberries to decorate
Put cupcake cases into a 12-hole muffin tin and pre-heat the oven to 160ºC (fan).
Put the digestives in a large bowl and crush them into crumbs using the end of a rolling pin.
Melt the margarine in a smaller bowl in the microwave and add to the biscuit crumbs.
Mix until well combined and stiff, then spoon into the cake cases and press down with your fingers to make the base.
Mix the soft cheese, soured cream and sugar together, then beat in the eggs and vanilla essence.
Pour the mixture into the paper cases on top of the biscuit base.
Bake in the oven for about 25 minutes until just golden on top.
Turn the oven off and leave the cakes to cool in there until they are cool enough to remove without oven gloves.
Remove the cakes from the tin.
Decorate each cake with a few blueberries or other fruit.
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.
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.
160g self-raising flour
20g cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp mint extract
75g dark chocolate, cut into large chunks
100g icing sugar
1-2 tsp mint extract (depending how strongly minty you like it)
green food colouring
grated chocolate to decorate
Prepare a muffin tin by placing cupcake cases in the holes.
Cream the margarine and sugar together until smooth and fluffy.
Beat in the egg and milk.
Add the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and mint extract and mix until well combined.
Add the chocolate chunks and fold in until evenly distributed.
Spoon the mixture into the cases to about 2/3 full.
Bake at 180ºC for about 20-25 minutes until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.
Remove from the oven and leave to cool fully.
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 🙂
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).
Finish them off by grating a small amount of dark chocolate onto each cake.
This might sound a bit wacky, but I promise you it works. Baking cakes with parsnip is no different really from carrot cakes. The cupcake recipe in my calendar for this month was simply a ginger one, but I’d been meaning to have a go at parsnip cake after the success of my chocolate beetroot cake, and I thought the flavour combination of parsnip and ginger would work well. With all the chocolate hanging around at the moment (that makes it sound like the chocolate needs an ASBO – I can assure you that it doesn’t!), these provide a lighter and different alternative.
Apart from the addition of parsnip, I changed the recipe quite a bit from the calendar one: I only put a small amount of sugar in, a third of what it says on the calendar, as the parsnip adds sweetness and I wanted to make some smaller ones to be toddler-friendly as well as some big adult-sized ones with icing on; I added some stem ginger, because in my opinion, if you’re going to have ginger, you might as well have proper chunks of fiery ginger rather than just ground stuff; I used honey instead of syrup, as usual; I made a few other changes too – so it’s nothing like the original really!
The instructions on the calendar said use a cake mixer. I don’t usually bother with one when baking, unless I’m whisking egg whites (I don’t enjoy the muscle ache afterwards when I do it by hand!), mainly because I don’t have one of those super duper fancy gadgets they have on the Great British Bake Off, just a small handheld one that cost about a fiver from Wilkos when I was a student many years ago. But as the calendar put the idea into my head, I was curious to see how the cakes worked out, particularly as I was guessing it would be quite a dense, moist mixture and therefore any extra air I could beat into it would not go amiss. As I suspected, even with the aerating skills of the electric mixer, the cakes didn’t rise massively, but I like the sticky, moist texture anyway, as is often the case with carrot cakes. I would say it’s fine to use either hand or machine in this recipe – whatever mood you happen to be in.
I think that’s all I wanted to waffle on about, so here’s what you do if you want to have a go yourself. Enjoy! Tom’s verdict: de-scrump-tu-licious!
Cakes – makes 10-12 big plus 10-12 small
250g self-raising flour
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
40g brown sugar
4 tbsp honey
1 large parsnip
50g stem ginger, plus extra for decoration
100g icing sugar
splash of ginger syrup from the stem ginger jar
Pre-heat the oven to 170ºC (fan) and prepare a muffin tin with cupcake cases and a fairy cake tin with cases.
Grate the parsnip, and chop the stem ginger into small chunks.
With a spoon, mix the flour and ground spices in a large bowl.
Put all the other ingredients apart from the parsnip and stem ginger into the bowl and mix with a mixer until well combined.
Add the parsnip and stem ginger and fold in with a spoon until evenly distributed.
Fill the cake cases to about three quarters full.
Bake for about 25 minutes until golden on top and a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.
Remove from the oven and leave to cool.
Meanwhile, mix the ingredients together for the icing until smooth.
Put into a piping bag and pipe onto the cooled cakes (big ones only!) in whatever design you wish.
Finish with a small chunk of stem ginger on top. Perfect!
You may remember that back in February I introduced a new monthly feature on the blog – Cupcake of the month – inspired by a calendar I was given for Christmas with a different cupcake recipe each month. This month the recipe was for vanilla cupcakes, with a slightly more unusual order for combining the ingredients than I had come across before. It’s not exactly the same recipe as appears on the calendar (I always adapt recipes!), mainly in that I halved all the ingredients, used marg instead of butter, missed out the salt, and doubled the amount of vanilla. I bought vanilla ‘flavouring’ instead of ‘essence’ last time I went shopping for it because they didn’t have any essence, and I knew that flavouring wasn’t as strong, so put twice as much in; disappointingly though, they still don’t taste strongly of vanilla, so I won’t be buying that again!
The decoration suggestion on the calendar was a swirl of buttercream icing with mini eggs on top. Although they look very creative, I thought I’d go one step further and combine these relatively plain cakes with another of my favourite things to make and eat at Easter – chocolate egg nests! You can’t beat a bit of shredded what covered in chocolate and honey, shaped into a nest with a couple of mini eggs in it 🙂 Andrew loved helping me make these too, not least because I let him lick the spoon! He was fascinated by the mini eggs and interested to learn about nests and count the eggs into them – he’s very into numbers and counting.right now. We made some small nests (I would make them bigger if we were eating them on their own) that fitted nicely on the top of the cupcakes, held on with a blob of buttercream (that was the ready-made stuff left over from Andrew’s birthday cake).
If you’d like to have a go at these treats for Easter, here’s the recipe……
Ingredients – makes 10
130g self-raising flour
1 tsp vanilla essence
150 dark chocolate
1 tbsp honey
chocolate mini eggs
buttercream icing (I had some ready-made stuff left over – or you could mix 25g butter/marg with 50g icing sugar)
Put 10 fairy cake cases in a fairy cake tin and 10 cupcake cases in a muffin tin.
Pre-heat the oven to 180ºC.
Mix the flour and sugar in a bowl, then add the milk and vanilla and stir until smooth.
Beat in the margarine and egg until well combined and smooth.
Pour the mixture into the cupcake cases until they are about half to two thirds full.
Bake for about 15-20 minutes until golden on top and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
Meanwhile, make the nests…. Melt the chocolate slowly in the microwave or over a pan of boiling water.
Stir in the honey.
Crush shredded wheat in your hands over the bowl and keep doing this, stirring it now and then into the chocolate, until the shredded wheat is nicely covered and the mixture is thick enough to spoon into the fairy cake cases.
Spoon a small amount into the bottom of each case, and press two mini eggs into the centre.
Chill in the fridge until set.
Once the cakes are baked and cooled, and the nests are set, assemble by putting a small blob of icing in the centre of each cake and pressing a nest down on top of it.
Store in an airtight container and eat as fresh as possible.
For Christmas I was given a calendar which has not only a picture of a different type of cupcake each month, but also the recipe for how to make it. This has inspired me to bake some cupcakes each month, based on the recipe in the calendar for the month. Now, I never follow recipes exactly, for various reasons such as I don’t have all the ingredients in when i want to bake or I prefer another ingredient from the one stated, so each month’s cupcake won’t be exactly as on the calendar, rather it will be my personal take on it. In fact when I shared with Tom my plan to bake cupcakes from the calendar each month but clarified that they would be adapted from the original recipe, he said: “Oh good, for a minute there I thought you were telling me you were going to follow a recipe, shocking!”
I didn’t get around to starting this monthly feature until February because I left the calendar at my parents’ house where we stayed over Christmas – we had so much stuff to take back that it wouldn’t all fit in the car so we left a bag including the calendar behind until they came to visit us in late January. So first up it’s choc-fudge-nut cupcakes, similar to brownies in texture (I know, I recently baked these too, but some went in the freezer for when we have friends round), with a rich ganache on top. These are definitely not for anyone without chocoholic tendencies! And they’re definitely not for toddler mouths with the nuts and that much of a chocolate hit in one go. Have you had your chocolate fix for the day? Why not get it by baking these…..
Ingredients – makes 9-10
35g dark chocolate
100g chopped mixed nuts
120g self-raising four
150ml double cream
150g milk chocolate
Put some cupcake cases in a muffin tin and preheat the oven to 170ºC (fan).
Beat the eggs in a large bowl, then add the sugar and flour and mix until well combined.
Melt the chocolate and margarine in the microwave or over a pan of boiling water.
Add the nuts to this and stir until they are all covered in chocolate.
Add the chocolate mixture to the rest of the mixture and stir until well combined, but don’t over mix.
Pour some mixture into each of the cupcake cases, to about 2/3 full.
Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes until a skewer inserted comes out clean; leave to cool.
Meanwhile make the ganache by heating the cream and chocolate on a low heat whilst stirring, until the chocolate has melted and mixed with the cream completely.
Take off the heat and whisk for a couple of minutes until it becomes thicker and glossier.
Leave to cool and thicken in the fridge.
Put the ganache into a piping bag with a star nozzle and pipe a swirl onto the top of each cupcake.
Sprinkle some chocolate sprinkles on top to finish.
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!
From what I’ve heard, the Olympics have started! As we don’t have a TV, we didn’t watch the opening ceremony live, and I haven’t got round to downloading it on iPlayer and watching it yet. This is the first time since we got rid of our TV that I kind of miss it, but given how much we’re saving on the licence fee, I’m not too bothered overall. We just don’t seem to get time to sit down and watch TV, except the odd DVD here and there. Although I didn’t watch the opening ceremony, I did feel like I was watching, because of all the tweeting and facebooking that was going on about it. To be honest, I’m a bit miffed about not getting tickets to anything I wanted to see in the Olympics, despite trying in the first and second round to get them. I would have loved to watch any of the swimming events, or anything going on in the aquatic centre, but I didn’t get any tickets in our (limited) price-range budget. It’s such a shame that I didn’t get to watch the one sport I really love when it was here, live in this country, not far from where we’re living, at the Olympics.
But I’ll stop whinging now. One day I’ll go and swim in the Olympic pool myself, just like I did in Sydney after the Olympics there. That will be a great day, one which I’m already looking forward to! Even though I’m perhaps not as involved in the Olympic atmosphere as I would like to be, that didn’t stop me getting in the mood for some Olympics-inspired baking. I had some (OK, lots of) Union Jack cupcake cases left over from the Jubilee celebrations in June, so thought it would be a good opportunity to use some more and get into the Olympic spirit by making some Team-GB-inspired red, white and blue cupcakes. Of course the cases are red, white and blue, but I also went for red and blue sponge (half of each in each cupcake), plus white icing and the three colours in hundreds and thousands. The red sponge came out red, but the blue wasn’t very strong (I’ve found this before with natural food colourings these days, particularly blue), so that bit of the sponge looks more like the usual creamy colour but a bit darker. Still, it’s a nice overall effect with half the sponge one colour and half another colour, even if it’s not amazingly blue like I intended. They taste lovely, which is the main thing. Tom and I sat eating an Olympics cupcake each yesterday evening, whilst Rebecca Adlington was winning bronze in the 400m freestyle in the Olympic pool (so I found out later on the internet). If you’d like to bake something to go with your Olympics watching, the recipe is below.
60g self-raising flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp vanilla essence
blue food colouring
60g self-raising flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp vanilla essence
red food colouring
3 heaped tsp icing sugar
a few drops of cold water
Preheat the oven to 180ºC (fan), and place cupcake cases in muffin tins (I made 1 dozen cakes).
Start with the blue sponge, as the colour is lighter than the red, so you can use the same bowl to mix the red in afterwards, because small bits of blue mixture won’t affect the colour of the red mixture, unlike the other way around.
Cream the sugar and margarine in a bowl until smooth and fluffy.
Add the egg and beat well until smooth.
Add the flour, baking powder, vanilla essence and food colouring, and mix until well combined and the colour is evenly spread throughout the mixture. Use enough food colouring to make the mixture as bold as possible in colour.
Put a heaped teaspoon of the mixture into each cake case, so that each case is about a third full.
Follow the same method from 3. to 6. for the red mixture. When it’s ready, add a heaped teaspoon of the mixture into each cake case, so it sits on top of the blue mixture, and each case is about two thirds full.
Bake in the oven for about 15 minutes until golden (even though the top is red inside, I found that the crust on top was quite brown, so I could tell when it was cooked as usual).
Let cool out of the muffin tins. Meanwhile make the icing. Mix the icing sugar with a few drops of water and stir until you have a thick paste. Only add a little water at a time – you can always add more but you can’t take it out once it’s in! (You could always add more icing sugar if you put too much water in, but then you could end up with too much icing.)
Put a small blob of icing in the centre on top of each cake. It will probably start to run down to the edges on its own gradually, but if not then spread across the top with the back of a teaspoon.
Sprinkle hundreds and thousands over the icing and carefully shake off any excess.
Leave the icing to set, and then eat the cakes! Store in an airtight container – best eaten within a few days.