Category Archives: cupcakes

ginger v maple

Christmas means gingerbread. That’s a given. There was no way around it.

But my fridge demanded a clear out before I could get down & dirty with any more holiday baking…  and it seemed a crime to waste a bowl full of fluffy maple cream cheese frosting… So I went wild.  Gingerbread + Maple Frosting.  Yep, that’s right, I dared to pair two such mighty flavours… and while others might balk, I think it tasted divine.

Gingerbread Cupcakes (from Crazy About Cupcakes by Kristina Castella)
Makes 20-24

1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temp
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
2/3 cup light molasses
2 teaspoons lemon zest (I omitted this)
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 1/4 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup sour cream (I used yoghurt instead, as that was what I had on hand)
* I also added 2 tablespoons of chopped crystallized ginger for an extra spicy kick

1. Preheat the oven to 375 F (350 F for dark pans). Insert liners into a medium cupcake pan.
2. In a large bowl cream the butter and sugars together with an electric mixer on medium speed until fluffy, 3-5 minutes. Add the egg, molasses, and lemon zest to creamed mixture. Beat well.
3. In a separate bowl combine the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves.
4. Add portions of the dry ingredients to the creamed mixture, alternating with portions of the sour cream, until they are completely integrated, about 30 seconds.
5. Fill the cupcake liners 2/3 full. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool cupcakes in pan on a wire rack.

*To be completely honest, I found these just a wee bit dense, slightly more muffin than cupcake-like, but the spices were perfect and I ended up gobbling 4 anyway..so give ’em a go and let me know what you think.  Ironically, I used this recipe instead of this month’s MSC pick because so many of my lovely bakemates found that one dense and dry. doh. I thought the sour cream / yoghurt would offer more moisture and a lighter texture, but perhaps not.  That’ll teach me to shirk my monthly duties. Although I wasn’t enamoured with the cupcakes themselves, I think the recipe works beautifully for whoopie pies.  To make whoopies (hyuk hyuk), line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and use a piping bag to pipe out 2 inch rounds of dough.  Bake them for about 5 minutes until puffy and golden at the edges (sorry, can’t remember exactly how long they took).  Fill with maple cream cheese frosting and enjoy xx

Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

12 oz. cream cheese
4 oz. unsalted butter (cut into small chunks)
5-7 cups powdered sugar
3 Tbs. maple syrup
1 tsp. maple extract (if you’re lucky enough to have it!)

Bung the cream cheese and butter in the food processor and whizz til combined.  Add 3 cups of the powdered sugar along with the maple syrup and maple extract, then whizz again.  Add the rest of the powdered sugar cup by cup, processing after each addition, until you get the desired consistency

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MSC: Pumpkin patch cupcakes

Linus: “Tonight the Great Pumpkin will rise out of the pumpkin patch. He flies through the air and brings toys to all the children of the world. He’ll come here because I have the most sincere pumpkin patch and he respects sincerity.”
Sally Brown: “That’s a good story.”
Linus: “You don’t believe the story of the Great Pumpkin? I thought little girls always believed everything that was told to them. I thought little girls were innocent and trusting.”

note the real pumpkin prop in the background.. slightly contrived, yessss...

note the background prop.. slightly contrived, yessss... and the 'forest green' food-colouring I used turned out to be more of a sea-green in my opinion, but oh well..

Well, I haven’t taken a bite yet, but I’m trusting that these are going to be phenomenal. Firstly, they’re cream-cheese frosted, which always spells ‘winner’.  Secondly, the cakes themselves smell fantastic, rose to a perfect dome and look deliciously moist.  But just looking gets harder and harder… I baked these up to take over to a friend’s house this evening (that way, I can only eat as many as I can stuff my face with in one go), but unfortunately she’s going through a rough time, so I’ve put ’em on ice for now.  Literally.  Which is why I’ve got less than a patch at the moment…
But it’s a sincere patch! You don’t get much more sincere than cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger.  And although I thought the marzipan pumpkins would be a nightmare to make (especially as I don’t have a leaf cutter.. clearly..) it was actually an easy task and I’ve come away inspired to skill up on the ol’ sugarcraft.. and to revisit the fun of play dough.

obviously, I had no leaf cutter and had to play it free style

obviously, I had no leaf cutter and had to play it free style

Somehow, living overseas for most of my life, I’ve developed a passion obsession for any and every tacky holiday tradition – the kitscher (read: tackier), the better.  So this was a perfect pick to kick start the halloween season.  The cupcakes were simple enough to put together, but I had trouble – as usual – getting my hands on pumpkin puree over here.  I made my annual pitstop at Selfridges (the only source of Libby’s 100% I’ve come across in London – as obscenely priced as it is) only to be told that they wouldn’t be receiving the shipment for another few weeks.  Eventually, I overcame the horror and resigned myself to missing out on this one.  (No time for DIY pumpkin puree).
Luckily, and despite having no faith whatsoever, I asked at my local (giant) Waitrose where – lo and behold – the fantastic saleswoman produced the (non-Libby’s) goods after a lengthy search.
Right, er, that’s my long-winded way of giving this bake a 2/5 for availability of ingredients (when living overseas and trying to survive the ‘great pumpkin crisis’ of 2009, apparently) and a 5/5 for simplicity. I can’t comment YET on taste or texture combo.. but I’m predicting high scores.  Big thanks to ‘What the Whisk’ Kim for this perfect seasonal pick, and please check out the other patches here.

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MSC: Courgette.. er, Zucchini (ahem) Spice Cupcakes

“Vegetables are a must on a diet.  I suggest carrot cake, zucchini bread and pumpkin pie”  ~Jim Davis

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This month’s MSC pick was a winner, in my book.. I LOVE carrot cake with cream cheese frosting more than any other edible substance on the planet (a lot) – but I’ve always wanted to swap veg and try using zucchini/courgette instead (look at me being bilingual..skills, innit.)

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The cupcakes baked up beautifully – with a perfect dome, which is impressive given my track record on overfilling..  They were moist and nicely-spiced on their own, but the frosting added that sweet creamy oomph needed to bump ’em up to a nom-worthy status of 3.5/5.  I’ve just now decided that I might start giving these bakes ratings a la bakingblonde – I always love knowing how recipes compare on ingredient availability, difficulty, and taste.. So here goes:
(bear in mind I’m comparing these with other cupcake+frosting recipes)

ingredients = 4/5 (double check you’ve got all the spices)
effort/time = 4.5/5 (half a point for the grating.. although that might be too harsh)
difficulty = 1/5
taste/texture combo =  3.5/5 (carrot still wins, for the extra crunch and natural sweetness.. plus, this was a lot more dense than my c-cake favourite..)

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I made these for a friend’s birthday and it was my first attempt at two-tone frosting.. obviously, practice is needed but they still did the job.  Thanks so much to Tracey of Tracey’s Culinary Adventures for such a good pick! And to our lovely leader Betty of EatMyCupcake!Please head over to the MSC clubsite for a look at what the other cupcakers thought about this one!

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Tea & tofu champs

I WON!!!!??!

Remember that matcha frosting I posted about a while back?? Well.. it took me a few weeks of research, plus a bank holiday weekend of baking to find the right cake & filling recipes to match – but all the blood, sweat and tears were worth it in the end!! (and no blood really, that would’ve been gross  + unhygienic)

I won Iron Cupcake London!!

This post comes a bit late – it’s been waiting in the wings because I’m stupidly superstitious and I figured I should hold off until the fantastic Caked Crusader posted the results..just to be sure.. I came away with some lovely prizes and a massive (sugar/win/champagne) high on the night, but you never want to jinx things..  We can all breathe a sigh of relief now though, because I’m happy to report that my little bakes are in fact listed as the champs. woohoo!

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1st place champs

The challenge was ‘World’, so I chose to go with a Japanese theme (which seems less than original in retrospect, as there were at least 3 other beautiful Japanese-themed entries..doh).  Mine consisted of a two-tone matcha chocolate cupcake (marbling just seemed like too much effort) filled with sweet adzuki bean paste and tofu chocolate mousse, topped off with matcha cream-cheese frosting.  Er, ignore the wonky shape of the cake please.. frosting hides many sins..  Unfortunately, not flower paste sins – I bought little cherry blossom cutters but it was my first go at sugarpaste work and things didn’t work out so I had to improvise..

my attempt at sugarpaste cherryblossoms..hmmm

pretend they look like cherry blossoms...go on..

I used my favourite chocolate cake recipe and adapted another recipe found here for the matcha layer.

Sour Cream-Chocolate Cake
From Sky High: Irresistible Triple-Layer Cakes by Alisa Huntsman & Peter Wynne

Makes an 8-inch triple-layer cake; or about 30 cupcakes

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, preferably Dutch process
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup neutral vegetable oil
1 cup sour cream
1 1/2 cups water
2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter the bottoms and sides of three 8-inch round cakepans. Line the bottom of each pan with a round of parchment or waxed paper and butter the paper.

2. Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl. Whisk to combine them well. Add the oil and sour cream and whisk to blend. Gradually beat in the water. Blend in the vinegar and vanilla. Whisk in the eggs and beat until well blended. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and be sure the batter is well mixed. Divide among the 3 prepared cake pans.

4. Bake in oven for 30-40 minutes, or until toothpick inserted into center of cake comes out clean.  Cool on wire rack for 30 minutes before turning out of pans.

3. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a cake tester or wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out almost clean. Let cool in the pans for about 20 minutes. Invert onto wire racks, carefully peel off the paper liners, and let cool completely.

*I’ve made the layer-cake version before with peanut butter frosting, as recommended in the book, and the combination is PHENOMENAL. try it. seriously.

Moist Matcha Cake adapted (slightly) from this recipe

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup cake flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

3 tablesoons matcha powder

1 ¼ cups white sugar

1 cup vegetable oil

3 eggs

1 cup sour cream

1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract

Directions:

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two 9 inch round pans, or line two 12-cup muffin pans.

2.  Sift together flours, baking soda, salt and matcha powder. Set aside.

3.  In large bowl, beat together sugar, oil and eggs until smooth.  Stir in vanilla.  Beat in the flour mixture alternately with the sour cream, mixing until just combined.

4.  Pour batter into prepared pans. Bake in oven for 30-40 minutes, or until toothpick inserted into center of cake comes out clean.  Cool on wire rack for 30 minutes before turning out of pans.

After the cupcakes were cool, I used the cone method to fill them with Chockylit’s sweet bean paste (below) and a tofu chocolate mousse from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World.  The double filling was down to indecisiveness to be honest.  When I was testing combos out, my boyfriend swore the bean paste tasted better, but I preferred the mousse filling – so I just went with both in the end.

Sweet Bean Paste adopted from Cupcake Bakeshop

1-1/4 cups red adzuki beans

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1/2 cup sugar

1. Cover beans in cold water and soak uncovered, overnight.
2. Drain, transfer back to the pot and cover in 5 cups of cold water. Bring to a boil and simmer for about 1 hour and 15 minutes.
3. Drain and puree with a hand blender or in a food processor.
4. Press through a metal sieve. Note: This is time consuming work. The pureed beans become a thick paste and it takes some time to press through the sieve, clean off the underside, continue pressing until most of the bean puree passes through and the skins are left behind.
5. Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add pureed beans and sugar. Stir with a wooden spoon for about 3-5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and allow to cool.
6. After the paste has cooled, scoop out 1/2″ balls. Cover loosely with plastic wrap so they won’t dry out.

Matcha Cream Cheese Frosting inspired by Cupcake Bakeshop and adapted from Sky High: Irresistible Triple-Layer Cakes by Alisa Huntsman & Peter Wynne
(I doubled the recipe  and ended up with tons – enough to cover 30 for ICL and about a dozen more since…)

4 ounces (1 stick) of butter

8 ounces (1 package) of full-fat cream cheese

4 cups powdered sugar

1 tsp vanilla

1 tsp orange extract

~3 tablespoons matcha powder

Blend cream cheese and butter in a blender, pulsing until combined.  Add half the powdered sugar and again pulse until combined.  Add the remaining powdered sugar, along with the vanilla, orange extract and matcha powder.  You may want to add more sugar if you’re like me and prefer a firmer consistency that holds up to piping..and car journeys across London during rush hour.  Decrease the amount of sugar if you have any sense and hope to live a long, healthy life.

I also entered these coconut cupcakes with mango frosting and guava jam filling as my ode to Mexican paletas, but I’ll save the recipes for another day.

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Matcha, mochi and more..

Right well…. I promised to post more pics today of the crumble topped banana apple bread I made for yesterday’s Sweet Melissa Sunday deadline, but my live-in photographer had other things to do so that will just have to wait… which means I’ll have to maintain some self-control to ensure there’s still something to take photos of tomorrow. damn.

So instead, I thought I’d post a few recent experiments:

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A few weeks ago we went to a fantastic Japanese restaurant – Bento Box, go – for a friend’s birthday and it sparked a bit of an obsession.. I’d been playing around with the idea of joining the Iron Cupcake London challenge and as this month’s theme happens to be ‘Cupcakes of the World’, I’ve made it my goal to put together a tasty Japanese-themed cupcake fit for the competition.  Now, this is a bit odd because although I grew up in Japan, I never really developed a taste for most of the Japanese foods that friends and family seem to love – e.g. sushi, sashimi, ramen.. and especially green tea, bean paste and most so-called ‘desserts’.

But I’ll try anything in cupcake form.

I came across Chockylit’s recipe for matcha green tea frosting and promptly cycled down (yes, cycled..I was that pumped, haha) to the Japan Centre in Piccadilly Circus for ingredients.  This was an easy cream cheese based frosting and – it still shocks me to say this – it’s DELICIOUS. seriously, I love it. The taste is hard to describe – I’d say the matcha almost adds a nuttiness.. or something.. I added a teaspoon of orange extract in an attempt to get a satsuma-ish theme going and an extra teaspoon of matcha powder just to make sure the green tea flavour came through.

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This is definitely one I plan to use again – for the Iron Cupcake London competition and just for fun.  It went over reeeeeally well with friends.. (Particularly with one friend who I’d describe as a fanatical dessert-hater in fact  – she had 2!!)

* I was going to offer MATCHA POWDER as my ‘most unusual ingredient’ entry for Katiecakes’ fantastic giveaway, but I also picked up this at the Japan Centre:

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No, not the lucky cat.  (ha ha.. what a card I am, eh?).  The package he’s propping up contains Mochiko – glutinous rice flour – which is used to make ‘Mochi’ in Japan.  From what I remember, Mochi is a chewy, mildly sweet bread (?) often filled with sweet bean paste.  Have a look here to get an idea.  I’m guessing that using Mochiko will be my most unusual baking experience – because even though it’s not unusual at all in Japanese cooking, it’s a far cry from my usual bakes and my  typical tastes.

I was NOT a fan of Mochi balls as a child. I always mistook the bean paste for chocolate and felt horribly cheated once I’d bitten in and realized my error.  But the idea of making these Mochi balls, and using whatever filling I fancy, really intrigues me… (though I do intend to try the beanpaste again).  Have a look here, here and here for a few tasty-looking recipes I’ve been considering..

I’ll let you know the verdict once I get around to this one – but in the meantime, check out Katie’s gorgeous blog for a look at what other unusual ingredients her readers have been cooking with! xx

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MSC: Chocolate Salted-Caramel Mini-cupcakes

“Salt is what makes things taste bad when it isn’t in them” (Anonymous)

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I’ve always felt a bit… dubious, I guess… about Martha Stewart.  Having grown up overseas (without access to the cable channels I so desperately craved as a member of the MTV generation), I wasn’t  fed on daily episodes of Martha and I’ve never read Living. I remember being vaguely aware of her stealthy build towards world domination, but Martha really only came into focus for me when she swapped fame for infamy as news of the ImClone scandal broke.  For a long time, this association reigned and I didn’t bother to disentangle images of prison stripes from gingham prints when references to the home ec. guru cropped up.  But I’ve become aware of a shift in the past few years –  Martha-bashing has fallen out of fashion and recently I started to wonder why I’ve never tried any of the lauded MS recipes.  To be fair, I got the impression that Martha (actually ‘Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia’) is a bit like marmite – whether you’re a lover or a hater, she’s a trademarked tradition that you’ve got to try. (Or so my boyfriend keeps insisting, in the case of marmite).

So I’m trying!   I splashed out and bought Cupcakes in a spend-happy moment, and promptly signed myself up to the brilliant new MSC baking group – brainchild of the stunningly talented Betty of EAT MY CUPCAKE.

…and I’ve been giddy with excitement about our inaugural bake since Betty announced that we’d be kicking off with Chocolate Salted-Caramel Cupcakes!  See, I recently experienced a gastronomic ephiphany  while on holiday in France – On our last night, we stopped by the most charming ice cream parlor ever in a little town called Maussane (near St Remy and within throwing distance of Nimes).  Naturally, I went for a king size cone with heaps of Nutella ice cream, but my Uncle also convinced us to try a scoop of their Salted caramel flavour too..  and thank god he did.

I know salt is supposed to bring out the flavour of chocolate, and although I haven’t yet got round to chucking salted peanuts in my peanut-butter blondies as Dorie advises, I was willing to believe that the combo might work…  But now.. after that phenomenal scoop.. I am a genuine believer.

So armed with newfound evangelical fervor, I dove into Martha’s recipe with high hopes.

Unfortunately, things went a bit pear-shaped..

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I made the full recipe and although it’s technically titled ‘mini-cupcakes’, I decided to make 12 standard sized cupcakes to take to a friend’s birthday, which left enough batter  for about 20 mini-cupcakes… or so I thought..  In retrospect, given the overflows, maybe I should have reigned in the pouring, eh?  My boyfriend described these as looking “like smurfs… in high wind”.

I do wonder though why the extreme lopsided-ness often seems to arise when I make chocolate cupcakes.. I admit I have a bit of a freehand and I do overfill my cups, but the overflows usually seem more balanced with vanilla and carrot cupcakes, for example… mysterious, no? hmmm

Anyway, back to the recipe ..
Mixing these babies up was a dream – the cake recipe was a simple, straightforward one-bowl wonder.. hallelujah, no extra dishes! My taster tried a naked minicupcake and described it as a bit dry – Personally, I found them moist and rich enough – but not quite as good as my usual GO2 (post on this later).  When it came to the caramel though, disaster struck.. and then struck again..

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I made 2 batches and managed to bugger them both up . The first one tasted a bit undercooked – the flavour and colour were far too light, as you can probably tell from the picture..  Then the second batch tasted way too overcooked – I basically ended up burning the bottom layer of sugar before the temp actually reached 360.. My caramalizing skills leave a LOT to be desired.

The frosting though, was amazing – incredibly rich and silky. In fact, I’ve just had several spoonfuls sans cake, and unfortuantely, I’m still going back for more despite how sick it’s made me feel.. It had a beautiful sheen when I first mixed it up, but after an overnight refrigeration and second beating, things dulled a bit.. still tasted great though!

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All in all, I’d say the cupcake recipe is worth trying and the frosting is a new personal favourite for sure.  I’m also gonna keep trying with the caramel because I’m sure the problems I had were more to do with my skills/anxieties/concentration difficulties than Martha’s recipe.

Thanks SO much to Betty for selecting such a brilliant, unique cupcake to kick things off with!! Please take peek a what everyone else has concocted too! (You can find the blogroll on Betty’s lovely site.)

I’m really looking forward to baking up another batch next month, see you all then!

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Soya subs take over my fridge

At this moment I’m stuffing myself with some very un-vegan scones, clotted cream and AMAAAAZING strawberry preserves that I made for tomorrow’s Sweet Melissa Sundays post.  I’m ecstatic- it’s my first SMS post…well, my first bakealong post ever actually, woohoo! But even though it’s past midnight here in the UK by my watch, I’ll have to contain my excitement until the light is better for snapping pics because this stuff is worth it.

But while I’m sitting here in a food coma unable to move, I figure it’s a good chance to write about those vegan cupcakes I mentioned before…

Since my boyfriend’s sister, Ana, went vegan about 9 months ago, I  started looking around for good i-can’t-believe-it’s-soya recipes that didn’t call for bizarre ingredients I’d have no chance of finding here in the UK. The chocolate cake and chocolate buttercream recipes I came across on Baking Bites were absolutely yum, so I really recommend stopping by whether you’re vegan or not.  Both the cake recipe and the frosting recipe are definitely keepers in my book, but I also decided I’d need a good, basic vanilla cake recipe to play with and flavour as I liked.. so the search continued!

Ana has been away saving the world over the last few months, but in anticipation of her return I decided she couldn’t live without ‘Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World’ by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero, and neither could I.  Unfortunately (only for me and my buy it seemed), Ana’s best vegan intentions had been squashed during her month long stay in Ghana, and she returned much more open to the joy of eggs and cream.. doh..

BUT I still had a go at some of the recipes in this book – and I’m really glad I did! I tried the golden vanilla cupcakes and the chocolate buttercream recipe, both of which were fantastic.  I admit I was a bit worried when I first took the cakes out of the oven because they looked a bit.. umm..shinier (perhaps?) and more dense than other dairy-full cupcake recipes I’ve used..plus, my boyfriend accused them initially of tasting dry.  But I promise that when paired with the chocolate frosting they’re gorgeous-  slightly moorish and definitely moist enough within the first few days.  (I only say that because I just ate the last one today, 5 days later, and it was admittedly nearing the slightly stale – but I’m sure any cupcake would be by this stage!)

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vegan golden vanilla cupcakes

The basic golden cupcake recipe calls for vanilla and almond extracts, which sound gorgeous, but since I was out of almond I decided to sub 1 tsp orange extract . I also added 1 tsp orange extract to the chocolate buttercream, and although it’s a bit out of character (because I’m generally not a huge fan of the combo – never really took to Terry’s chocolate orange sweets..) I’m glad I did because the flavours were gorgeous – there was a nice contrast between the light not-too-sweet cupcakes and the rich fluffy chocolate frosting, with a subtle orange pulling everything together.

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To be honest, this  frosting was so good that I may have to add it to the Go2 collection..  If anyone wants the recipes, have a google or send me a message!

See you in the morning for SMS!!

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