Friday, 31 December 2010

Most wonderful cupcake of the year

The end (of the year) is nigh and I was going to do a round up of my favourite cupcakes I've bake this year but I don't have time as I have a birds nest of over-dyed hair to sort out and make up to slap on so instead have decided to post about my favourite cupcakes I've bought this year. It was a close run thing - I LOVED quite a few cupcakes.

First up the runners up.

Best international cupcake goes to, Cupcake Berlin.

Truly DELICIOUS cupcakes with the nicest peanut butter frosting I've ever tasted. Also a lovely little cafe full of lovely treats, including tonnes of vegan friendly goodies.

Next. Best UK cupcake out of London goes to Swallow Bakery.

GREAT cakes, shame about the service. I plan to go back in 2011 and check it out again.

Runner up in the London cupcake of the year goes to Love Bakery.

Not only have I never had a bad cupcake from them, they released my favourite cupcake book ever, Love Bakery: Cupcakes from the Heart, this year. I've baked loads from it since I received it, and I hope to bake loads more next year. It is a fantastic book and I highly recommend it to all my readers.

An honourable mention must go to Ms Cupcake and her vegan cakes that still confound me. How can you make a cake taste soooooo good without butter? I just don't know. But Ms Cupcake and her team of vegan bakers know the secrets and they should be applauded. Also Mellissa is one of the loveliest people you could meet on the cupcake scene.

Her vegan bounty cupcake was one of the highlights of Cupcake Camp for me! Absolutely delicious and more chocolaty than some ultra expensive vile cupcakes that pertain to be loaded with Valrhona. (If I was doing worst cupcake of the year btw Cox, Cookies and Cake would be the winner - this place doesn't deserve to exist, and I feel probably wouldn't it if it wasn't fronted by two 'celebs').

The fabulous bounty cupcake however leads me on nicely to my favourite cupcake event of the year. There can only be one winner. Cupcake Camp, organised by the amazing Daisy. I am already thinking of cakes to bake at next year's event! It was an awesome day out and really showed how many great bakers there are out there.

And now, for the winner of my best cupcake/best bakery of 2010.

For me there could only be one winner. I've only had their cakes twice but the first time was enough to convince me that they were fabulous. And the winner is, *drum roll*, Kooky Bakes.

I first tried Scott's baking in July and was so overwhelmed by the selection I barely ate a cupcake! When faced with the Snickers Slice my brain just went into a peanut butter zombie trance and could think of nothing else. Hmmm peanuts. The SS incidentally probably wins my non-cupcake baked good of the year. How could it not - look at it, behold its beauty! My first visit wasn't cupcake free however and I did try a delicious black forest gateau cupcake.

We visited Upmarket the weekend before Christmas to pick up a box of cupcakes from Kooky to ensure we ended the year on a cupcake high, and we were not disappointed.

Although there was a slight, Anne based, disaster getting the cupcakes home in one piece (I blame it being so cold I had to keep swinging my arms to keep warm - poor Scott was dressed up like he was Scott of the Antarctic when we visited the stall!), the cakes slight squishedness in no way detracted from the AMAZING flavour of each and every cake.

Each cake was moist and incredibly flavoursome, each frosting a bite of heaven, as they were so light. Manny was awestruck by the Chocotecture cupcake - dark chocolate sponge injected with a white chocolate ganache,  topped with a ring of white chocolate and a ring of milk chocolate mouse buttercreme. After scoffing many chocolate cupcakes I finally think Manny has found his favourite. Every cake we had was delicious. I had a raspberry and white chocolate and a red velvet. I think I have finally found the best red velvet ever. Utterly amazing.

My plan for next year is to go to Kooky Bakes and get some cakes home in one piece so I can finally show you all how beautiful they look pre me getting my ham-fisted hands on them!

Finally, I wanted to wish all the people who follow my blog and leave such nice comments, and send me such lovely messages of support, a incredibly Happy New Year. I hope you all have a wonderful cupcake-filled 2011.

Monday, 27 December 2010

Merry Kirschmas

My friend Gemma's birthday is on Boxing Day and we always meet up on Christmas Eve for a few drinks to celebrate as none of us are in a fit state on Boxing Day.

This year she asked for some Black Forest Gateau cupcakes and who was I to refuse.

Firstly I soaked some tinned cherries overnight in lashings of Kirsch. I used Mary Berry's Devils Food Cake recipe for the cupcakes as it's very easy to make and results in a moist, dark, flavoursome cupcake.  When the cupcakes were cooled I used my apple corer to make a little well, and stuffed the cupcakes with the boozy cherries, and drizzled a rather generous amount of kirsch over the top of the cupcakes. This meant the cakes were very moist, but thankfully they remained very tasty - I had worried the Kirsch was so strong it would overpower the cakes.

I had thought of topping the cupcakes with some chocolate frosting, and then some whipped cream, but after enquiring on Twitter I was encouraged to cover in only whipped cream which is more traditional. I had thought of adding more kirsch to the cream when whipping but I thought the cakes were boozy enough. I did however add some vanilla bean paste to the cream - mainly because I can't resist adding vanilla to most things! I piped the cream onto the cooled, stuffed cupcakes then used my cheese slicer to get create some chocolate shavings from a bar of Green and Blacks Dark 70% chocolate which I then tumbled all over the cream. I was going to top the cake with a fresh cherry but couldn't find any so settled on a bit Green and Blacks Cherry chocolate. As Gemma is a fan of anything black (she even buys black loo roll) I sprinkled some black glitter over the cakes as well, which although you can't really see here, looked fabulous.

I tried one after they were 'frosted' and they were very boozy. I honestly felt rather tipsy after just one. Perfect! The alcohol soaked in overnight as the cupcakes were stored in the fridge and the harshness of the Kirsch disappeared leaving behind a lovely moist, ultra booze soaked cupcake.

Gemma loved the cupcakes and as soon as we arrived she scoffed one while taking them upstairs to the fridge, and she emailed me to say they scoffed the rest for Christmas morning breakfast.

I'd definitely make these again, maybe next time I'd do it when cherries are in season as I wasn't too keen on the tinned cherries.

I had some whipped cream left at the end of piping so I made Manny an extra special cupcake just for him! 

I hope everyone had a very Merry Christmas, and Santa was good to y'all. I got lots of lovely gifts, and shall post about them as soon as I get some pics! 

I had planned to post this on Christmas day but alas we a bit too much fun on Christmas Eve (damn you Jager Bombs) and I could barely type never mind start blogging! 

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Oh when the snowman brings the snow

It hasn't snowed in London since Saturday and London is still in snow chaos. The headlines are full of tales of woe and despair of poor people spending nights sleeping on floors of airports, or even worse on a pavement in Kings Cross. At least we've not sunk to the depths of brutally murdering snowmen like the bus drivers of Urbana!

I find in times of trouble what really helps me is a nice cup of tea and a biscuit.* That's right a biscuit! I've deviated slightly for once from my all cupcakes all the time moto to share this fantastic Nutmeg and Custard Yo Yo's recipe I found via Lucy's Teen Baker blog as it's a perfect little Christmas treat, especially if you make them bite size like I did. They're also dead easy for kids to make (perhaps with supervision!). If you make mini ones, remember to adjust the cooking time - mine took about 10mins.

I'd love to take a load of these down to the airports and cheer everyone up, but alas Manny may divorce me if I tried!!

*and possibly a ranty swear on Twitter/Facebook.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

You're full of sugar, you're full of spice

I wanted to bake some festive cupcakes at the weekend and went with two flavours that I feel are incredibly Christmas'y - gingerbread cupcakes topped with clementine frosting.

I adapted a Martha Stewart recipe. I was going to use the gingerbread one in her Cupcakes book but there is no bicarb or baking soda mentioned and I was wary it wouldn't work. This is from her website, but slightly amended for me as I wanted it extra spicy!

Gingerbread Cupcakes
120gm butter at room temp
80gm dark brown sugar
2 large eggs, beaten lightly
320 Plain flour
2 tsp ground ginger (I used maybe a smidgen more)
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg (I grated it fresh)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
pinch salt (I used a teeny tiny pinch - could miss this out I think)
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
320gm of molasses (bought in Holland & Barrett)

Preheat oven to 165ºFan, and boil some water in the kettle. Put your cupcake cases in your trays.

Mix your bicarb of soda with about 150ml of boiling water and stir. Set aside.

Cream the butter and sugar together for several minutes until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs.

Sift flour, salt, spices and baking powder together and fold into the mixture then give a good mix until well combined. Then beat in the molasses - be warned this is MESSY! I used a silicone spoon for this rather than my hand mixer as it is very sticky! Finally, mix in the bicarbonate of soda mix - I did this by eye and had a little bit left as I didn't want the mix to be too runny.

Use a ice cream scoop or tablespoon to fill your cupcake cases.

Bake for approximately 17-18 minutes. The sponge should spring back if you touch it, or a cake pokey thing should come out clean if you poke it into the cake. Leave to cool for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Clementine Frosting 160g unsalted butter, softened
500g icing sugar (I used Billington's Golden) - I used slightly less than 500g
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
zest of 2 clementines, or add as much/little as you want
Juice of about 2-4 clementines - to get the consistency you want

Beat the butter and some of the juice/zest and vanilla. Add some icing sugar and mix in. I found the Billington's Golden icing sugar didn't fly around as much as icing sugar usually does! Also it gives a beautiful colour to frosting, naturally. Add icing sugar gradually and juice as required until the you get the consistency required. Then if you want to add more zest to taste, do so. I added quite a lot as the flavour was really nice.

Pipe onto your cupcakes and enjoy.

These tasted fabulous the first day baked. Even more fabulous with a pronounced ginger taste the next day. The day after that we had a couple left and the ginger tasted even better. Great cakes for keeping a couple of days.

I took these to work and they went down very well. I even got an order to make some Christmas cupcakes for a colleague to give to her neighbours as gifts. Manny described them as Christmas in a cupcake and I fully agree. The gingerbread was sticky and very spicy (I was quite heavy handed with the ginger!) and the frosting was lovely - I really liked the flavour of clementine!

The only thing that disappointed me with these cakes were the cases. They are Wilton gingerbread ones - they went see through upon baking - utterly rubbish! But never mind as they looked so lovely naked I didn't mind too much.

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Cake decorating with Mich Turner

On Wednesday I answered a tweet out from Sarah, Maison Cupcake, for any cupcake loving food bloggers that could be in the Islington area yesterday, and was lucky enough to get a spare place on a cupcake decorating masterclass with Mich Turner MBE, founder of the Little Venice Cake Company, which was arranged by Tesco Real Food.

So, after booking a day off work I pootled off to the Make Lounge in Islington for the event. Before we got down to the hard work the organisers piled us with champagne and we got to have a quick chat with Mich. She was really friendly, asking about my blog, what I liked about cupcakes, most unusual baking experience etc, and what I hoped to learn from the day. We also talked about her lovely cakes which were on display, and of course I forgot to take pics.

Once everyone arrived, and I finally got to meet Sarah, we donned our cupcake aprons and took our seat, ready to learn.

We started with a brief introduction round the table. Mich asked me if I thought the cupcake craze would ever end and of course I stood up for them, and when I mentioned the whoopie pie fad I could tell she wasn't a fan by her face! She also announced to everyone that my blog was "one of the longest running" which was a shock to me (I'd told her I'd been writing my blog for nearly 3 years), and she also mentioned my brussels sprouts cupcakes which got a few eughs from the others! I also got told off by Mich when I happened to mention that Sainsbury's sell a large range of big cupcake cases, completely forgetting the event was organised by Tesco! Ooopps. Must've been the midday champagne!

After everyone had introduced themselves, Mich got down to business. First she showed us how to make sugarpaste roses. She made it look so easy and quick but was a very good teacher and answered all questions we had, and happily posed for photos etc. 

Next up she showed us how to make a simple candy cane decoration. These were adorable and perfect to top your festive cupcakes. The twisting of the two colours wasn't as easy as Mich made it look, but I got the hang of it eventually.

Mich's perfectly formed roses
Mich's frosted and decorated cupcakes
Mich then showed us how to use royal icing to add details such as leaves or swirls to the frosted cupcakes, or LVCC signature lined fondant toppings. She also showed us how to use cutters and embossers, and how to use lashings of glittery to make your cupcakes even prettier!

my cupcakes frosted
Then it was our turn to try our hand at sugarpaste and decorate our own cupcakes. The cakes and frosting were both made the night before by Megan, from Tesco Real Food, who had stayed up to the wee hours baking a hundred plus cupcakes!

First up we made some decorations using sugarpaste, which wasn't as easy as Mich made it look. My rose petals kept sticking to the punched pocket thing (we used one sliced open to put the blobs of paste between to smoosh out to make the petals) and then it looked more like a party of lady that I shalln't mention than a rose so I started again!

Then we got hold of some buttercream and naked cupcakes and frosted them. I tried a zig zag style that Mich suggested, but I think I prefer the swirls!

so glittery and pretty - my lovely rose
soooooo pretty - yes I'm proud of myself
I'm quite proud (well a lot proud) of my green glittery rose and my leaf piping, and my red glittery rose (below). I'm really not an artistic person, I'm good at frosting and that's it (and that's taken quite some time!),  so I am rather chuffed with myself that I made something that is actually recognisable as a rose!! And I managed to pipe some leaves onto my cake as well!

cupcake and my chubby candy cane
I also managed to master the twisting and twirling required for the candy cane, although mine were a little chubby and bent a little in my frosting!

all my cupcakes decorated
Time flew by really quickly and before I knew it the class was over and it was time to box up our cupcakes and head into rush hour with our box of pretty, glittery goodness! Alas my cupcakes didn't make it home looking quite so pretty. As soon as I put the lid on the roses got a little squished (they were a bit big for cupcakes but its my first time!) and by the time I'd gone on several buses to collect Manny from St Thomas's my cakes were a bit of a squishy mess. BUT they tasted lovely, well the vanilla ones I got to try did - really tasty and still moist today! And the buttercream was ever so tasty too. Talking of buttercream, Mich said we should stick to a 60/40 icing sugar/butter ration to always get tasty, easy to pipe frosting. She also suggested making ganache, then making vanilla frosting and mixing the two to get ultra chocolate'y frosting! Like I said she really was full of hints and tips!

You can arrange a masterclass with Mich on the LVCC website. They are quite expensive but so worth it I'd say. She was a very good teacher, and herself and her assistant were there to answer any questions we had and help us out with any problems we were having! She was also really funny and down to earth and genuinely in love with cake decorating. 

This post is a bit photo heavy already so I've put some photos of the other decorators cupcakes on my Flickr page. They're all so pretty!

Thanks again to Sarah and Tesco Real Food for the opportunity. And Mich for being such a great teacher. If you want to learn some of her techniques she has several books on cake decorating, with a new one, The Ultimate Step-by-Step Guide to Cake Decorating Perfection, due out in February. 

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

And the bells were ringing out for Christmas day

One of my favourite cafes in London is Bea's of Bloomsbury and as such I was very excited to see Bea's lovely creations for Christmas. Some of the most fabulous, and tastiest, cupcakes I've had in London have been from Bea's, and her Christmas creations look like they will live up to my expectations!

How adorable are these gingerbread man cupcakes?  And I can visualise Manny reading this and drooling over the screen at the lashings of chocolate/ganache that the little gingerbread fellow is resting on!

And the gingerbread man isn't alone - he's got a candy cane friend

And lots of other Christmas goodies!

They come in Chocolate Baileys, Double Fudge and Gingerbread - all fabulous flavours for Christmas! I'm planning a visit next week...hoping I can persuade Manny to pop in to the glamorous new One New Change venue for a quickie after work!

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Holidays are coming

If you're lucky enough to live in the Cirencester area you can pick up some gorgeous Christmas cupcakes from Cirencester Cupcakes.

I've admired CC's work for some time, as previous posts confirm, and I was hoping to visit before Christmas as they have a Christmas Market in town as well so I could've had some cupcakes and mulled wine.  I'm hoping that we can make it over early next year instead.

The Christmas selection sounds, and looks, delicious, coming in a range of different flavours including the very festive peppermint and mince pie topped with brandy buttercream. How good does a mince pie and brandy buttercream cupcake sound? I want one!

And lets not forget the most festive of flavours, chocolate orange. Terry can sod right off - it's mine!

You can find out ordering/buying info on the Cirencester Cupcakes website and please do let me know if you try some! 

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Christmas cupcakes - the taste testing

Yesterday I had a chance to taste test a couple of Christmas Cupcakes from two of London's most popular cupcake cafes and thought I'd share them with you.

First up was Friday's Christmas Pudding Cupcake from the Wardour Street branch of Hummingbird. We lunched at nearby Mooli's (GO THERE if you like yummy, spicy, tasty food - was delish) and then went to pick up a couple of cakes for later.

In my previous post I'd said I wasn't fussed about the idea of the exotic fruits in the cupcake - well I'm the first to admit, I was wrong. This cupcake was delicious. The fruits worked really well and the kick of booze was noticeable but not overpowering. The almond frosting was very festive and very, very tasty. A definite winner. Even Manny, who's not keen on fruity cakes enjoyed the bit I shared with him, so it must be an all round winner!

Now I just need to find a way to get from my office in Borough to a branch of Hummingbird to try some of the other daily flavours before Christmas.

Of course Manny would never choose something fruity over chocolate, even if booze was involved, so instead opted for a black bottom. These are one of his all time  favourites and he devoured happily. I got to taste a smidgen and it was really very tasty.

We then wandered to Carnaby Street to see the lights which weren't as good as the last couple of years.

Then onto Selfridges to see the windows, including one full of cupcakes and macaroons and lashings of pink goodies.

We walked past Lola's and spotted a couple of seats and decided to warm up with a a hot drink and a cupcake. I know, I know, any excuse, but it was -2 out on the mean streets of London!

I opted for the Christmas special of gingerbread cupcake topped with cream cheese frosting and lots of little gingerbread men sprinkles covered in lots of cake glitter. The cake was moist and delicately spiced and the frosting was delicious. I can never get my cream cheese frosting to taste as good as Lola's, but I shall persevere and one day I will succeed. Talking of frosting, Lola's now have frosting shots for sale next to the cupcakes - I was very tempted but moved away from them before I bought some! This is definitely one of my favourite festive cupcakes - gingerbread is just so festive.

Manny got an Oreo cupcake, as they appeared to have stopped doing his favourite Lola's cupcake - the collaboration with Gü. Again the cupcake was nice and moist with oodles of delicious frosting. A couple of my gingerbread men sprinkles jumped cake from mine and ended up on his too - but tis the season for sharing so I let Manny keep them!

I'm hoping to get to some of the other London cupcakeries in the next couple of weeks to taste test some more for you, but remember keep checking back as I'll be featuring lots of other festive cupcakes (including outside of London), and gift ideas for cupcake lovers for the rest of the month.

Friday, 3 December 2010

Baking with Brussels Sprouts

I promised to share the recipe for Brussels Sprouts cupcakes, and true to my word here it is to delight and amaze your friends and family with at Christmas.

2 eggs
125g Sugar
1 tsp Cinnamon
100 ml vegetable oil
125g Self raising flour
125g carrots
125g sprouts
35g Walnuts
20g raisins
40g dried coconut (I used some wonderful coconut flakes I got in Marks and Spencer -they're FAB)
1 tsp fresh ginger grated (I didn't use fresh)
1/2tsp vanilla essence

Preheat your oven to 180°C, I have a fan oven so it's about 160ish. Line your cupcake baking tray with 12 cupcake cases.

Beat the eggs, sugar and oil for a couple of minutes, add the flour, cinnamon, ginger and vanilla essence and carry on mixing for a minute.

Fold in the grated carrots, sprouts walnuts, raisins and dried coconut. Divide your mix into your cupcakes cases. I use an ice cream scoop for this but you could use a tablespoon.Cook in your preheated oven for 20-22mins, (until a cake proddy thing like this inserted into a cupcake comes out dry).

Naked sprouts cupcake
I topped them with a cinnamon cream cheese frosting.

40g unsalted butter, at room temperature
100g full fat cream cheese
250g sifted icing sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon (or to taste)

Cream the butter and cream cheese together for a couple of minutes. Add the icing sugar (I do this bit by bit to minimise icing sugar covering my entire kitchen) and beat for about 2 minutes until smooth.

So far people I've made these for have either loved or hated them. They are definitely something worth making if you want to make something different.

If you do make them please let me know what people thought!