Saturday, 28 August 2010

Baked Alaska Cupcakes - Daring Bakers Challenge

Brown butter baked alaska cupcake = delish

This is my first attempt at a Daring Bakers challenge and although the outcome, Baked Alaska cupcakes, were phenomenally tasty I managed to cock it up somewhat by getting too excited and not reading the instructions properly. All I can say is I blame being sick - as I read the instructions while off work sick for two weeks and deciding what to make. There was a choice of a baked alaska or some small petit four type things - I immediately decided, obviously, to make baked alaska cupcakes.

The actual challenge had two mandatory sections - the ice cream and the brown butter pound cake. This is where I mis-read and thought you had to make the ice cream and a brown butter cake. Which is what I did ...oops.

Anyhow I did three new things for this challenge; I made my own ice cream, I made brown butter (without burning it) and I used a blow torch, and kept both eyebrows and my fringe!

my very vanilla'y ice cream getting its final whip

First up was the ice cream. I used a recipe from July's edition of Good Food Magazine for vanilla ice cream (recipe here). I successfully made the custard, which I'd been dreading, then as I don't have an ice cream machine I hand whisked it every couple of hours till it was time for its final electric whisk and then went to bed at about 2am! I added extra vanilla too as I love the taste of vanilla and it came out really well - a few ice flakes but it tasted better than any posh store bought ice cream I've bought so I am chuffed with it for my first attempt.

Next up was the cake. Obviously I should've made the pound cake that I now know was compulsory but I didn't. Sorry, again. I however used a basic cupcake recipe but instead of using boring old butter I first browned it following instructions on Chow, with a little help from Bea of Bea's of Bloomsbury on Twitter and let it cool slightly before making the cupcake batter. The smell as these were cooking in the oven was amazing. And when they came out they smelt slightly toasty and nutty - I couldn't wait to try one and scoffed one when they were quite warm and burnt my tongue. Again my gluttony is foiled and punished.

The rest of the cakes were put safely away in tins until the next day when the meringue was whipped (using the egg whites from the eggs used in the ice cream which I'd frozen for these!) and my brand new blow torch was filled and ready to go!

Me with the blow torch browning my first baked alaska! SO exciting!

My lovely husband had suggested I'd either burn the house down or end up doing something stupid like scratching my head while using the torch and ending up bald - well *raspberries* as I managed to blow torch nothing but the meringue toppings.

Browning not burning!

This is where we fall down a little again - we got no pics of the baked alaska cupcakes innards - for two reasons. One, we were too greedy and wanted to eat them as they smelt and looked delicious and two, I totally forgot. One bite and all I was thinking was YUM, my mind thought of nothing but the next bite.

Manny's baked alaska - yes I let him play with my blow torch even though he mocked me

Manny's blow torched beauty

We scoffed a couple of baked alaska cuppies each and then I made 4 with a bit of lemon curd, topped with meringue. Again, delicious. (Note: We didn't eat them all in the same day!). The rest of the cakes we ate plain with a cup of tea. The left over egg whites were piped onto baking parchment and placed in the oven and came out an hour later as gorgeously gooey treats which we had the next night for dinner with Chantilly cream! It was a bit of a sugar filled couple of days!

Lovely lemon meringue cupcake

I really enjoyed taking part in Daring Bakers even if I did cock up a bit of it - hopefully they don't throw you out for mis-reading!! And I've learned that burnt butter in cupcakes is a taste sensation - something I shall definitely be doing again soon!

Thursday, 26 August 2010

I asked for a cupcake not a crapcake

MasterChef started last month in the US on the Fox Network and typically American it looks overblown and a bit more annoying than the UK version. Although I much prefer their version of Gregg Wallace - their very own chubby presenter Graham Elliot. Yes their chubby presenter can actually cook not just shovel food in his mouth. He was also my favourite in Top Chef Masters, and yes I'm addicted to Food TV. Alas their other presenter is even more irritating than the cardi wearing John Torode, Gordon F'ING Ramsay - do America realise there are other chefs out there?

Anyways the reason I'm mentioning Masterchef is because in one of the episodes they are challenged to make a stunning cupcake using an amazing table of decorative excitements - not sure I'd go that far, the frosting is in a TIN ffs.

You can watch the clip and see the cupcakes that Gordon so elloquently, and rather predictably, called crapcakes here. Although you can't really argue with his description when you look at the rather melty mess above.

I'm sure this show will be on UK Food or the Food Network for us all to enjoy soon.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Butter Lane hearts butter!

When we visited New York last year we stayed about 10minutes walk from Butter Lane and took full advantage, visiting on numerous occasions to pick up some of their fabulous cupcakes. They were so good we intended to take a box home but we were slightly delayed at JFK and ate them there instead - what a great way that was to say goodbye to NY.

So today I was very excited to read on Cupcakes Take the Cake that Butter Lane are featuring in the new Lurpak ad campaigns by Saatchi & Saatchi. I thought it was going to be a follow up to all those giant advertising posters that appeared earlier this year with slogans such as "one off's are baked not bought" (I'm still slightly confused re these 'cupcakes' - they are naked). Then I read again....

Saatchi & Saatchi London has launched its first campaign for Lurpak since landing the global account for the premium butter and blends brand earlier this year. The account covers all markets across the world except the UK. DAMN

The TV spots are part of a documentary film made by Saatchi & Saatchi, featuring Pam Nelson, co-owner of the New York bakery ‘Butter Lane’, telling the story of how Lurpak butter helps the cupcakes she makes “the best on the planet”.

Shot inside the bakery in the east Village, Pam Nelson talks about how she quit Wall Street to make cupcakes and enticingly shows and describes quality ingredients being put together to create a little piece of heaven, exemplifying the quality of the Lurpak brand.

It is the first in a series of films that will be created from around the world focusing on people who are passionate about the food they create (where butter is an essential ingredient in their famed product) and have an interesting story to tell

You can watch the advert here and be warned you'll get some serious Kitchen Aid envy at the beginning.

Oh and Pam isn't lying - they really are the best cupcakes in the world!!

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Some recent cupcake'ing fun

This was my dinner a couple of weeks ago in Peter Jones when I went to collect my brand new blowtorch. The cake was nice and fresh, but the topping was like a hard fondant - not really worth the calories. But the view from the upper floor restaurant is fabulous!

A rather delicious cupcake from yesterday's visit to the Skin exhibition at the Wellcome Collection. The cake was the best thing about the trip. The exhibition was rather boring and then someone made me spend what felt like HOURS in the bookshop. The blueberry cupcake was from the Peyton & Byrne cafe in the foyer. The frosting was luscious - melt in the mouth mousse-like texture and incredibly fruity and flavoursome. The cake itself was plain vanilla I think. I have a feeling all the cakes are vanilla, and its just the frostings that are flavoured - they are very tasty though.

We also visited the Peyton & Byrne cafe briefly last weekend - we were meant to go to see the Skin exhibition but were a bit late but managed to pick up a couple of cupcakes and a cup of coffee.

I opted for a lemon cupcake and Manny had a chocolate one. The frosting on Manny's was like a ganache and fantastic. My cupcake was very tasty, but a little old - perhaps not fresh that day.

Next up from a recent(ish) trip to the delightful Ms Cupcake's stall at Greenwich Market. I'd been off work sick for nearly two weeks, only leaving the house to go to the doctors but on one of last days off I managed to drag myself out to see Ms C and it was totally worth it.

I had a cherry bakewell which was amazingly fruity and moist, and Manny had the rolo which was was absolutely gorgeous (I had allowed a wee bite).

As I've said before I am really amazed at how gorgeous Ms Cupcake's vegan cupcakes are - they are so moist and tasty - unlike some of the other vegan cupcakes I've tried.

If you're a cupcake lover I recommend you give them a try asap to see if you agree with me. I'm pretty sure you will.

I can't remember if I mentioned these when I bought them a couple of months ago but just in case check out my gorgeous Matryoshka measuring cups from Fred (which I bought via Amazon). They are adorable and look ever so cute in my kitchen. The only thing I've used them to make so far was my attempt at the chocolate vegan cupcakes from the Bleeding Heart Bakery's cookbook which alas ended up straight in the bin. I was a bit disappointed at the time but now I read online that the books been the cause of many problems for people so its not just me. This is the second incredibly disappointing baking book I've got this year and is now unfortunately relegated to my "looks pretty but don't use" along with Eat Me (yuk). I also feel a bit disheartened when I keep reading that these books are meant to be inspiration rather than baking books - I buy books for recipes. I think the same has to be said of my recent Lily Vanili book - more inspiration than recipe based with the 5 recipes it contains.

Finally, and I have to really admit to being an utterly bad person here. About 3 months ago I received a lovely package from the lovely Tram at Sweetdee's Cupcakes and I totally forgot to blog about them. Aren't they adorable. The notebook is just perfect for carrying around in my bag and writing about my cupcake adventures and the little card holder is just too cute! I love it. I've not tried Sweetdee's cupcakes yet but hope to in the near future.

Friday, 13 August 2010

Heavy metal cupcakes \m/

This in reality should be my 666 post but alas its my 791 (seriously that many posts about!)

The reason it should be 666 is because these cupcakes ROCK and we all know the devil has the best tunes right?! These cupcakes are from the incredibly talented Louise owner and baker in chief at Cirencester Cupcakes. The band logos are made using an edible printer - I'm jealous and want one but they're a little expensive to buy just so I can make Manowar cupcakes!

I shall definitely be pre-ordering some Manowar logo/photo ones when I eventually get to visit Cirencester Cupcakes store, hopefully later this year. I've been meaning to visit since they opened but it's a bit of a journey, but worth it for some rocking cupcakes!

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Passionate about cupcakes

Each month the London cupcake specialists Lola’s develop a new and exclusive flavour and this August ushers in a delicious sounding Passion Fruit cupcake!

The passion fruit flavour has a light, tangy citrus cupcake sponge, bursting with a divine passion fruit curd and delicately topped with heavenly peaks of crisp meringue with a fabulously chewy centre.

I shall be popping into their cute little cafe in Selfridges next time I'm in to have one for lunch - coffee and a cupcake is a healthy lunch isn't it? Well there is fruit involved so it must be nutritious.

You can also pick up your favourite Lola's cupcakes from Thursday 19th August at their new Cupcake Counter in Topshop, Oxford Circus.

Situated on Topshop’s Ground Floor, the new LOLA’s Cupcake Counter offers an exclusive selection of freshly baked scrumptious, regular-sized and TINY cupcakes, with an array of LOLA’s signature flavours, including red velvet, rocky road, peanut butter, carrot, and banana. A perfect way to cope with the legions of teenage girls that always seem to be in Top Shop!

Friday, 6 August 2010

Prepare your frosting bags for battle

Cupcake Wars finally makes it to the UK on Monday 13th September on the Food Network. I first blogged about Cupcake Wars in Feb 2009 so have been waiting some time to see it!

The show has been on since June in the US on their Food Network and my friend Dennis has been hooked. I can't wait to see it - I've been emailing the Food Network UK (without response - great PR guys) for some time trying to find out when it was going to air here.

It’s cupcake vs. cupcake in Food Network’s tastiest competition yet! Each week on Cupcake Wars, four of the country’s top cupcake bakers face off in three elimination challenges until only one decorator remains. The sweet prize: $10,000 and the opportunity to showcase their cupcakes at the winning gig.

We are about to put on our helmet, pick up our frosting gun and go to battle. The war is on!

There are some recipes from previous episodes online already including a delicious sounding peanut and popcorn cupcake, and a not so delicious Cinnamon Swirl Sour Cream, Maple Cream Cheese, Strawberry and Bacon Breakfast Cupcake. You can also check out all the cupcakeries taking part in their episode guide, however be warned it does tell you who won the challenge so only look if you don't mind spoilers!!

I shall just arriving home from a weekend in Madrid (to see Manowar and eat cupcakes) when the first episode airs but will set the video and settle down with a cupcake and a cuppa to watch when I'm home.

And finally a reminder that National Cupcake Week starts 13th September so hopefully the show will provide some baking incentive to us all. Find out more about National Cupcake week here. The Food Network are the official media partner of Cupcake Week so we can assume the launch of Cupcake Wars is part of this!

Food Network is Channel 262 on Sky and they show it again an hour later on Food Network + 1 on Channel 263. Thanks to FN for use of their pics.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Cox, Cookies and (cup)Cake

I've mentioned before I love Twitter right? So today's Twitter find was a new bakery. Cox, Cookies & Cake is a joint venture between shoe maker Patrick Cox and our favourite French P√Ętissier Eric Lanlard, of Cake Boy.

Cox, Cookies & Cake have developed an indulgent and deliciously quirky repertoire of cookies, cakes and bars and will have an emphasis on quality rather than novelty. There will also be a range of goodies inspired by Patrick's mothers recipes - including her fabulous (and delicious sounding) Nanaimo Bars made from coconut chocolate biscuit with a layer of custard vanilla butter cream coated in melted dark chocolate.

I love the idea behind Patrick's creative vision for Cox, Cookies and Cake - a sexy amalgam of honourable London traditions: the corner cake shop and the Soho hotspot with black glossy floor and disco inspired walls - sound perfect to me!

I've still to taste any of Eric's cakes, despite saying years ago I was going to Cake Boy :( but I cannot wait to try them - his cakes always look so tasty. Wonder if I can persuade Manny to venture over to Battersea soon?

“I am really excited to be working in partnership with Patrick. We are both obsessed with great
food and style and of course we both share a great sense of fun. Together we are going to be
creating a range of yummy cakes and cookies designed to match the style of this up-and coming,
vibrant part of London that is Soho! “

From the press release pictures above, and below, I can already see that the cupcakes are going to be innovative (hello skulls \m/), so lets hope it's not a case of style over substance and they looks as good as they taste! I plan to go on opening day to check them out so of course will let you know! I'm sure they're going to be (absolutely) fabulous!

Cox Cookies & Cake, opens September 1st at 13 Brewer Street, London W1, opening hours 11am - 11pm (perfect for late night cupcake cravings!).

Finally, Eric Lanlard fans will be pleased to know that his new book Home Bake is also due out at the beginning of September, and is available for pre-order on Amazon. It features recipes for cupcakes and other yummy looking home baked treats.

Monday, 2 August 2010

Cupcake kitchen update

After mentioning on Twitter I needed to get a little kitchen blow torch someone kindly suggested Wilkinsons. I could hug the lovey lady right now as I'd never have thought of looking at their website as I didn't realise they had one near(ish) to me. Now I shall be heading over there asap to get some CUPCAKE WALLPAPER!!

I've been looking for cupcake wallpaper for some time, and to be honest had given up as I was tired of getting excited thinking I'd found some and then discovering it was just dotty or something and some twonk had called it "cupcake" ..grrr. Similar to this file box from Wilkinsons - where is the cupcake?

This wallpaper is by Graham and Brown, but is nearly half price at Wilkinsons so I know where I'll be buying it.

The plan is to paper one wall of our kitchen with this - anyone fancy popping over and wallpapering? Never done it before - except to help my mum, when I ended up covered in paste and paper with a very irate mother. It can't be that difficult - can it?