Friday, 29 April 2011

British jam sponge cupcakes for a very royal wedding day

I have to admit it, I'm really not that interested in the royal wedding. I'm in no way against it; I'm very happy that Prince William and Kate are married and hope that they're very happy together. I'm just not particularly interested in the wedding ceremony of two people I've never met.

That said, people all over the country have been getting excited and preparing for today, planning barbecues, parties, tea parties etc. etc. And I couldn't help but get caught up in it all and thinking that it would actually be pretty good fun to make some themed cupcakes!

The cakes are just a simple vanilla sponge (taken from the Hummingbird book again, I'm obsessed, I admit it). Once they were cold I added a raspberry jam filling - it means that they're almost like mini Victoria sponge cakes, and you can't get much more British than that. Filled cupcakes are definitely my new favourite, as it means that you get the perfect cake/ filling balance. I then added simple vanilla buttercream (buttercream with vanilla extract). This was trickier than I'd anticipated - because I'd cut into the cakes to fill them, there were crumbs which got a bit mixed up with the icing. On top of that, the icing clung to the cake and the spoon, and the top bit of cake covering the jam had a tendency to come off a bit. Still, with a bit of perseverance the icing stuck.

No typically British anything is complete without some blue, red and a Union flag! I used red and blue sugarpaste icing (and some very small cutters) to make the little hearts and stars, and then made the flags by printing them out and attaching them to a cocktail stick. And hey presto! 

Monday, 25 April 2011

Caramel cupcakes

Whilst looking through the new Hummingbird cake book for a recipe for chocolate cupcakes (see my last post) I also came across a recipe for caramel cupcakes and immediately wanted to try them. I had a tin of caramel (dulce de leche) in the cupboard just waiting for such a recipe and I had been desperate to use it for cupcakes. I loved the look of this recipe as it included the caramel in the cake mixture, not just the icing.

I made sure to use muffin cases this time for the batter. However, after filling 12 cases there was still enough batter left over to fill a seven inch tin (which, incidentally, is exactly what I did with it). Still, better too much than too little, I guess!

The cakes turned out pretty well, even though a couple were a little lopsided! That was easily resolved once they were cold though.

I decided not to use the Hummingbird icing recipe as I'm not a huge fan of buttercream icing. I was also keen to keep the sugar content down as far as possible since the caramel itself contains so much, and the recipe for caramel buttercream called for half a kilo of icing sugar. I considered using pure caramel as icing but came to the conclusion that it would probably be too rich. 

In the end I made a very small amount of buttercream (only 30g butter and 100g icing sugar) and then mixed in a few spoonfuls of the caramel. The icing was quite runny but, as with previous attempts at making icing from my own recipes, a little time in the fridge helped. I still ended up with some drips, but I do think the cupcakes look quite cute like that! Some chopped fudge sprinkled over the caramel icing finished the cupcakes off.

For me there wasn't enough icing and the cake to icing ratio wasn't quite balanced. This was because the icing was quite runny (even after the fridge time) and so I couldn't put too much on top of each cake as it would have dripped straight off again. However, I also filled a few of the caramel cupcakes as there was some extra icing. This was the answer! I like filled cupcakes as they are easier to eat than ones with icing piled high, but you still get a good balance of sponge and topping. I think this might be the way forward!

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Chocolate pudding cupcakes

Having bought a new baking book recently - Cake Days by The Hummingbird Bakery - I felt it was time to put it to the test (and it was a good excuse to bake on a free Saturday afternoon). I decided on the Chocolate Fondant Cupcakes, hoping these might have more of a wow factor than the chocolate cupcakes I made recently.

The recipe was quite simple, which is something I hadn't originally expected from a professional baking book - often the recipes are quite long. I decided to halve the recipe, as the full recipe makes 12-16, which is too many for just me and my other half. However, the halved recipe produced more cakes than I expected! I think the cupcake cases I used were shallower than most cupcake cases, which are generally closer to muffin cases. In any case, the extra batter allowed me to try out my new mini silicon cupcake cases (more on that later).

I also decided to try making icing with creme fraiche, simply because I had some left over which needed to be using. Since cream cheese and cream are both used in various types of icing, I figured it must be possible to make some of icing using creme fraiche too. I used 100g creme fraiche, twice as much icing sugar and then added some cocoa powder. It turned out a little runny but I didn't want to add more icing sugar and make it over sweet. As it was, a little time in the fridge sorted it out enough that it was useable and my other half tried it and said he thought it was quite similar to buttercream (I don't think it is, but I did decide it was perfectly fine as icing).

The icing also serves as a filling for these cupcakes. You can fill cupcakes by scooping out a cone shape of cake, dripping some icing into it, then using the top of the scooped-out cone to cover the filling. I did this, then spread some icing on top of the cupcakes. It dripped down the sides a little, but that gave the cupcakes quite a cute look!

The cake is a lovely, moist sponge cake without being too rich and the filling adds that extra something that was missing from the last recipe. The filling makes the cupcakes more like a dessert which is why I called them chocolate pudding cupcakes.

Unfortunately the cakes I made in the silicon cupcake cases didn't turn out so well! The cake itself is perfect, but I filled them a little full and so they spilled over and the cupcakes looked quite misshapen. I don't know whether it's just me, but I wasn't able to turn the cake out of the cases without breaking them either, so they're staying in the cases and will have to be eaten out of them! I'll be sticking to the paper cases, and maybe trying out some larger cases next time - and there definitely will be a next time, these cupcakes are a real treat!

Saturday, 9 April 2011

Cupcake time!

Cupcakes seem to be the thing to bake at the moment and I love looking at all the fabulous different recipes at Finally I decided that since I had a bit of spare time (Saturday morning and my other half was still asleep), and some eggs that needed using up, I would have a go at making some cupcakes. I used a very basic chocolate sponge recipe, which was very easy to make. For once I actually managed to keep the kitchen relatively clean and tidy too - just as well since I had already cleaned it! The brilliant thing about the basic sponge recipe is that it does really just require the one bowl (plus scales and utensils).

The cupcakes turned out reasonably well for a first attempt. In fact there was nothing wrong with them at all - they look nice and taste good. They're just not extra special with some sort of wow factor. However, for a first cupcake basic is probably good and they're certainly quite yummy and edible. They may have been a little more moist if I had taken them out of the oven a few minutes earlier, but no harm done.

For a quick, simple cupcake this is definitely a good recipe. I think next time though I'll try something that's a little different and has some more oomph!


125g butter (or margarine, I find it works just as well normally)
125g caster sugar
2 large eggs
110g self-raising flour
1 heaped tbsp cocoa powder
2 tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla extract

1. Beat the butter/margarine and caster sugar together until pale and fluffy.

2. Beat in the eggs, adding flour if the mixture curdles

3. Sift in the flour and cocoa powder and fold in.

4. Mix in the milk and vanilla extract.

5. Divide the mixture between 12 cupcake cases. Bake at 190ÂșC for 15-20 minutes.

I then decorated them with chocolate buttercream icing and dark chocolate curls.

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Chocolate Cricket Pitch Cake

March and April seem to be busy months for birthdays in our families and the next one is tomorrow. Since we have to be at work tomorrow, we celebrated today. The birthday, of course, demanded a cake (or to be honest, it was more of an excuse for me to bake). A chocolate cake was decided upon and this presented the perfect opportunity to try out the new ready-to-roll chocolate icing, which I was quite excited about! I was going to add a white icing 'ribbon' to make the cake look like a birthday present but somehow the idea came about to make the top of the cake look like a cricket pitch (I think my other half might have suggested it). The birthday in question was that of my other half's Dad who is quite the cricket fan and so it seemed like a good idea to me. I spent a while trying to decide exactly how to decorate it and this is what I ended up with:

I do realise that it's in no way to scale, but then again, it is a cake! The wicket is made of marzipan, as is the wooden part of the bat. The handle and the ball are made from red sugarpaste icing and the stumps are match sticks. I did consider using candles as stumps but decided that they would be far too big, even for my not-to-scale cake! I then used a small amount of marzipan to make the bails. For the boundary rope and crease markings I used a white chocolate squeezy icing pen.

For the cake itself I used a chocolate cake recipe from BBC Food, though I used buttercream icing instead of the icing recipe suggested here since I was using regalice icing on top. 

The ready-to-roll chocolate icing looked good on the chocolate cake but wasn't as tasty as I'd hoped. It was perfectly fine but I was hoping that it would taste a little more chocolatey than it did. That said, I would still use it again. It gives a nice finish to a chocolate cake and I feel it suits it a little more than any other sort of sugarpaste icing. I think the next step would be to try making my own sugarpaste and see whether I could make it more chocolately.

The chocolate cake itself was extremely easy to make. The recipe produced a very moist and quite rich cake which tasted lovely, but I think eating it straight after dinner was maybe a little too much! My other half declared the cake a success though (and it seemed to go down well in general) so I'll use the recipe again - next time I'll be having it with a cup of tea as an afternoon snack though!