Category Archives: frosting

the great malt ball debate: a clash of cultures

“What do you mean malt balls? What are malt balls?”
“Malt balls.. you know, powdered malted milk balls covered with chocolate…”
“Nope, doesn’t ring a bell…”
“What? Of course you know malt balls.. like maltesers, you love maltesers!”
“Yeah, I know maltesers. But not malt balls. No one calls them malt balls.”
“What??! But that’s what they are! Maltesers ARE malt balls. Like kleenex are tissues!”
“That’s crazy talk.” (or something like that).
“What?! You’re crazy! That’s exactly what they are, what else would you call them?!”
“Maltesers. But anyway, she’ll like the cake, whatever it is.”
“That’s not the point now! And some people DON’T like them! Just ask her, she’ll know.”

This was the conversation that ensued when I asked my British other half to find out if his sister liked malt balls.  It was her birthday and a cake was called for, but as usual, I was paralyzed with indecision as to which underused cookbook/impulse buy to draw on.  I’ve managed to make one recipe out of Baked before – and although that cake put me through hell, it was damn good.. So I figured their Malt-ball Cake deserved a go too.  Having read a few reviews by parties claiming to be less than keen on the malt flavour after all, I just wanted to be sure the birthday girl would appreciate my pick…

[phone call made]
“She doesn’t know what malt balls are. But she said she’ll like whatever you make.”
Argh.

i need a spirit level

The cake turned out beautifully – pure white with a meltingly soft texture and what I’d describe as a tight (but certainly not dense) crumb.  While the Baked boys opt for a simple chocolate ganache frosting, I decided to double up on the malty magic by using a malted milk chocolate frosting from the Sweet Melissa Baking Book.  Be warned, it’s very rich.  But very good. The texture threw me a bit actually, as it seemed slightly.. tacky (if that makes sense to anyone?).. in the bowl, but that might have been the milk chocolate I used and it tasted delicious nonetheless.

And the combination was killer.

You can find the recipe for the Baked cake here, but in respect for the SMS enterprise, I’m going to hold out on posting the Sweet Melissa frosting recipe.. (I’m happy to email it though if anyone is in desperate need!) xx

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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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sms: the cake from hell

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This week’s SMS bake, Devils Food Cake, turned out to be a *%$£ing nightmare.  Yes folks, a big, fat, sticky, gooey, creamy, acrid, prolonged torturous nightmare.  Don’t get me wrong – Melissa’s cake itself was heavenly.  It’s a simple enough recipe yielding moist, dark chocolate layers..which, in my case, baked up a bit unevenly because I failed to scrape the bottom of the bowl as religiously as I should have.. the centres shot skyward, only to sink the minute they came out of the oven.  Thankfully, this just seemed to result in slightly denser, more level cakes though, so I wasn’t particularly worried.  Now, sticking with the suggested peanut butter frosting at this point would have saved much blood, sweat and tearful cursing.  But, having done peanut butter frosting to death before (I fell in love with a cream cheese version and refuse to stray), I decided to take this opportunity to conquer my caramel demons by making the Sweet & Salty Cake from Baked.

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Known as their signature creation, it consists of chocolate cake slathered with salted caramel sauce and whipped caramel ganache frosting.  After reading a few negative reviews of the Baked cake itself, in contrast rave rants about the phenomenal frosting, I figured Melissa’s devils food cake would be the ultimate base.  Now, I’m not even a huge fan of caramel taste-wise, but making caramel is something I swore to conquer after my first two attempts went up in smoke a few months back.  literally.  Unfortunately, things got smokey this time round too.  In fact, I ended up having to make 4 – yes, 4 – batches of caramel this time..!!  As I said, the first went up in smoke. The second survived to become a luscious whipped ganache which turned into an impenetrable mass after an overnight stint in the fridge.  So clever me decided to try softening it in the microwave, and – you guessed it – pulled out a liquid mess after getting distracted for a few crucial minutes.  Devil cake 2, June 0.  Back to the Coop for more butter. and chocolate.

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I finally scored a win in round 3 (which I did NOT put in the fridge), but still had to play out round 4 to make the salted caramel sauce.  The whole process took about 4 days and  I’m out a hefty load of sugar, butter and chocolate, but I finally know how to make caramel.  Unfortunately, I had planned to share this devil child with friends, but the dinner date came and went before batch 3… So at the moment, I’ve got a big fat chocolatey waste sitting in my fridge. It’s cursed, I swear.

Despite all my whinging dramatics though, I have to admit that the whipped caramel ganache is phenomenal. Paired with the salted caramel sauce and Melissa’s gorgeous chocolate layers, this is one deliciously evil cake.  I recommend you roll up your sleeves and get sugar-cooking.  You can find the cake recipe on Holly’s lovely site and check out how the other SMSers got on this week

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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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