Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Raid the Cupboard

In the last few weeks I've been trying out some 'unusual' ingredient cupcakes with the idea of entering the "Most Unique Ingredient" at Cupcake Camp this weekend.

First up was the tomato soup cupcake as featured in the new book from Baked Explorations: Classic American Deserts Reinvented, the new book from the guys behind Baked bakery in New York. The recipe was featured in  Daily Candy so I thought I'd give it a go. I really didn't like it very much at all. The tomato soup overpowered the cake and I didn't even bother to make the frosting as I knew I'd never eat the cakes. Alas the weekend I made these was the weekend my camera broke so the pic is a bit dodgy. Also Manny had a cold so could taste nothing so I can't give a second opinion as the only other thing to taste them was my Brabinta. The second photo below shows how it should have looked when finished. My looked more like giant tomato muffins (that tomato soup really fermented when you added the baking soda - it was like something out of a horror movie!). I keep thinking about re-trying this recipe but with a lot more spice, as the spices really didn't come through in the cake in my opinion. Maybe trying it with Heinz soup, rather than the condensed soup as well as I'm told its makes a nicer, sweeter cake.

my tomato soup cupcakes

Baked's tomato soup cupcake

Next up was a cupcake I think I invented, as I've looked and can't find any cupcakes that are similar - if you've made them sorry! The reason I thought of this was all because the lady loves this....

the cornflake milkshake from Hawksmoor. Drooooool. One of the nicest things I've ever tried. I figured I would make some 'cornflake milk' by toasting the flakes lightly then adding to some ice cold milk, which I then left to soak for about 30mins or so. I then made a plain cupcake with the cornflake milk added. I added some cornflake crumbs to some of the cupcakes for extra taste (so I thought!). I was quietly confident this would work as the batter tasted really cornflake'y - like the milk that's left at the end of the bowl once you've scoffed the cereal. Alas the flavour baked out and what we were left with was a flavourless cake, and in the case of the ones I crumbled some cornflakes into, a flavourless cake with some soggy cornflakes in. Bugger.

Not willing to give up I made some cornflake milk frosting hoping it would save the cakes but it really didn't. Manny still ate them though! He really is the best taster in the world - and because he goes to the gym he works it off!

Next up was this weekends attempt. An yellow cake (ie no egg whites) infused with cardamom and saffron with a white chocolate and cardamom frosting. An Asian friend at work told me to ensure I used LOTS of cardamom to enhance the flavour. She suggested grinding it into the base but I wasn't that keen, instead I infused some hot milk with about 9 cardamom pods and a little bit of saffron and left to infuse for about an hour or two. The milk smelt very fragrant and I used equal quantities of  butter, caster sugar and baking powder and then 2 egg yolks, making up the remaining weight with the infused milk. The result was an incredibly moist, flavoursome cake. A little bit too flavoursome for me - I felt the cardamom was a little overpowering, but Manny happily scoffed them. I made a white chocolate and cardamom frosting using some of the leftover milk - I must say I'm not that fussed about white chocolate frosting, I find it a little too sweet.. Oh, and I baked some apricots into a few of them and Manny seemed to enjoy those when hungover yesterday, which didn't please the lady at work who was keen to try them!

I've just noticed that both cakes look kinda similar as they both have white frosting and I used the same cases for them - ooops. Honestly they're not - they're different cakes - you can tell by Manny's expanding waist-line, and the cardamom ones are more yellow inside!

the innards of the cardamom and saffron yellow cake

I have one more thing to try for Cupcake Camp with an unusual ingredient and then if that doesn't work I'm opting out of the comp! There are only so many odd(ish) things a girl can think of!

Btw, I've decided to name some of my posts this week in tribute to some of my favourite bands/songs for Halloween - this one is a tribute to Nunslaughter's Raid the Convent.

Gorgeous cupcake gift idea!

It's not long till Christmas (!!) and what cupcake fan wouldn't love to receive this gorgeous bird cupcake stand, as featured in Daily Candy's baking supplies that'll warm your kitchen list.

Hand-made by Whitney Smith, it is available via her Etsy store in pink (my favourite), red and blue. It can also be made in custom colours, sizes to match your kitchen.

Photographs used with thanks to Whitney Smith.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Zombie Apocalypse

You wait ages for a gruesome cupcake event then two come along at once. Lily Vanilli, queen of the gory cupcake is holding the official launch for her book A Zombie Ate my Cupcake on Friday 28th October at Harrods.

The event promises a beautiful zombie set in store - featuring a huge haunted house backdrop (below) designed by Paul Parker (who illustrated the book). There will also be a zombie raffle, book signing, interactive zombie waiters, a zombie cupcake feast and lots of cake!

The event will also celebrate the official launch of the new Lily Vanilli counter in Harrods Food Hall patisserie, where her cakes will be exclusively available all year round, which will be selling a selection of cakes from the book for Halloween including a couple of my favourites from the book, the shattered glass and the eerie eyeballs. Those worms look just a little too real for me as I suffer from Scoleciphiobia!

Lily will be signing copies of A Zombie At My Cupcake from 1-2pm, further details here. I'm aiming to get there as I've taken the afternoon off work so fingers crossed nothing urgent comes up that stops me leaving at midday on the dot!

So I realised the other day I've not gotten round to reviewing the book itself which I've had for about three months. I'm not going to lie, when I first got it I was a little disappointed with how few recipes there are in there - about 10. But, the book is full of awesome ideas and when you think about it most recipe books are just the same ones over and over again with a little addition so I would definitely recommend this book if you are a fan of unusual cupcakes and want to try something different than a dollop of frosting on top of your cupcake.

Although I love baking and love anything gory, I'm not the most artistic and I think some of the cakes are beyond my skills, the day of the dead skulls for example, or one of my favourites the crazy crabs,

however I think I could manage the Devil's Food cupcakes, below, and these are on my to do list for baking after Cupcake Camp. There are great ideas in the book and if yours doing turn out as pretty as Lily's well they're kinda meant to be gruesome so it doesn't matter!

If you'd like the book and can't get to Harrods on Friday, The Book People have it for the bargain price of £3.99!

Finally if you're wondering where the title of this post came from, Zombie Apocalypse by Mortician \m/

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Horrific Cupcakes

I just wanted to remind readers that next weekend sees London's first over 18s cake shop, Eat Your Heart Out and The Pretox Potion, at Maiden on Shoreditch High Street.

I've had a sneak peak at the menu and WOW I'm stunned by how much they are going to have there and believe me when I say there will be oodles of gruesome cupcakes featured. I honestly don't know where to begin as there are so many to choose from but a few that stand out are squirting eyeball cupcakes and squeezable zit cupcakes which sound fabulous and gross at the same time;

Who can resist squeezing a spot? We know it’s gross but it’s also too tempting. These cupcakes will tempt to you the edge with their ooozingly ripe giant zit. Buy one, squeeze it and watch the puss
squirt out.


And lets not forget 2 girls 1 cupcake, and what is bound to be Manny's favourite The Re-animator. Oh and vaginas!

I tried to persuade Miss Cakehead that they should play Lividity's Pussy Lover as a tribute to these cakes but I don't think she agreed! (please don't click the link if you're easily offended - the song is a little rude). Mortician would be another great choice for store music! I should be dj'ing but then they mightn't get many visitors if I was!

As well as cupcakes there will be delightfully gruesome cake pops, larger cakes, tarts and Human Centipede cookies.

The store is open from midday on Friday until Sunday (Halloween). Each day they will open until they sell out - selling 666 items of baked goods each day so don't dilly dally (or walk like a zombie) and get your arses down there for some gory baked goods. And you can pick up a blood bath shower curtain from Maiden while you're at it if you want to add some gore to your home (I imagine we'll be getting one).

We're planning to go on Friday so look out for pics and a review on here.

Monday, 18 October 2010

A tale of two bakeries

My Love Bakery book arrived last Friday at work and the one cupcake my colleague and I drooled over the most was the rhubarb and custard cake. It sounded absolutely fabulous and was immediately added to must bake soon list.

So obviously I was mega-chuffed when I ventured to Love Bakery on the Saturday hungover (and alone as my other half was too hungover to leave the comfort of the duvet!) and spotted them on sale. As I was hungover and had previously been unable to keep food down that day I bought a box of four and pootled off down the Kings Road with them.

We didn't get round to eating the cupcakes till the Sunday as we both still felt a little under the weather on Saturday night, but the cakes did not suffer for it and still tasted incredibly moist and flavoursome. This always worries me about bakeries where I buy a cupcake and eat it the same day and its hard - when do they make them? Anyways back to Love. The rhubarb and custard has now been added to my favourite cupcakes of all time list - a lovely moist base with a rhubarb compote in the middle, and a custard frosting, with crumble on top. This is pure comfort food in a cupcake!

My second choice of cupcake was the banana toffee cupcake. This was a very tasty banana cake, topped with gorgeous caramel frosting - this cake was luscious. The only thing I didn't enjoy was the fondant bananas on top - I find them just too sweet but hey they looked gorgeous and the cupcake was to die for so who cares!
 Look at that frosting - you just wanna dive in!

Next up were Manny's cakes. I opted for the red velvet for him as his first choice. He loved the red velvet declaring it the best he's tried, apart from mine (he's too sweet sometimes!). It was a really moist, very red cake, but the cake wasn't marred by the flavour of food colouring, which can sometimes happen with red velvets.

Look at the colour of that! 

Finally was his double chocolate - always with the double chocolate. After the disappointment of the "valrohna triple chocolate" from Cox, Cookies and Cake he was very happy to have a chocolate cake that tasted of chocolate. Perhaps the Love Bakery ladies could teach Mr Lanlard and Cox how to make chocolate cakes?

The second bakery visited was an old favourite, Crumbs and Doilies. And alas it is a very different story than Love Bakery. If you check though my blog I have eaten a lot of cupcakes from Crumbs and Doilies in many flavours from lemon and poppyseed to Christmas flavour - all have been pretty and more importantly all have been tasty. Until recently that is. The last time we bought cakes from them was in April 2010 when we went to Partridges Market to get their flavour of the month, Mexican Chilli Chocolate. It was dry, disappointing and flavourless. Never one to judge a bakery on just one cake as they could be having an off day I decided to give them another go and this weekend seemed perfect as their flavour of the month was Mojito. I fell in love with Mojitos when we went to Madrid last month to see Manowar so these sounded right up my street. We had planned to get just two cakes but they were offering a box of four for a fiver (two were £4) so we opted for two mojito, a chocolate and a rose vanilla.

Then we went to the pub as it was cold and wet outside and we couldn't be bothered to shop.

The pub also explains why my pictures look like this

To be honest I didn't have much to work with.. These are the mojito cupcakes. These are billed as;

a winning combination of lime, mint and a little Havana Club rum. Awesome.

And that did sound awesome. Unfortunately they tasted of nothing. Ok there was the merest hint of lime but nothing else. No mint, and I certainly got no rum. The frosting was weird - I really don't know what it was - a mush with no flavour, except a tonne of sugar crystals on top. Incredibly disappointing. And  to top it all, incredibly dry.

Next, Manny's chocolate cupcake;

A rich chocolate sponge made with Valrhona cocoa, smothered with dark Callebaut chocolate buttercream

I didn't try this but he was bitterly disappointed - he said there was a minimum of chocolate flavour and he didn't believe this was Valrhona chocolate. Again it was dry and again flavourless.

Finally, my rose vanilla;

A light, fragrant cupcake made using organic Madagascan vanilla and naturally distilled organic Persian damask rosewater. Available with pink icing only.

This smelt funny and the smell overwhelmed me before I even took a bite. Like butter but not fresh. But I persevered (the things I do for my blog) and again it was utterly tasteless. There was no hint of vanilla, no rosewater nothing. I sniffed the cupcake trying desperately to get a hint of rose water - nothing. It didn't smell of anything at all. I'd at least expected a hint of vanilla. The cake was beyond dry and we were eating them the day we bought them. Things like this seriously worry me. When I bake I use nothing but the  best ingredients, and occasionally we eat cupcakes about 3 days after they're baked (you can't eat all the cupcakes at once can you!!) and they still taste MUCH fresher than these.

I don't know what's happened with Crumbs and Doilies - have they changed bakers, suppliers? Does anyone know. I'm bitterly disappointed. I've been recommending them to people for years but I'm afraid I won't be doing that any more.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

A whole lotta baking going on

Some of the people who follow my Twitter seem to think I bake a lot. I don't really, but baking is never far from my thoughts. For example in meetings when they're 'downloading' about 'moving in the right direction', 'bottoming out' and 'parking ideas in the carpark', I tend to be sitting updating my list of cupcakes I must bake rather than stir frying ideas in my intellectual wok. There are never enough days to bake all the things I want to and this is when I miss Iron Cupcake - it was a perfect excuse to bake. At least this month we have Cupcake Camp, and the list of ideas for that is v.long.

However sometimes my list gets cast aside when something else takes my fancy and I leave work early to knock up some cupcakes. This usually occurs after a particularly bad day in the office - I find baking soothes me. Last month I spotted some rather cute looking cupcakes in Jamie Magazine. The accompanying story was about a girl, Georgina Bragg, who is a piercing artist by day and a cupcake baker by night. My kinda girl. The recipe was for some very simple, but very tasty lemon cupcakes and as I had  a few lemons mooching round the fridge I decided to make them. I added a little chunk of my new favourite chocolate, Green &  Black's white chocolate into the batter of each cupcake before baking and they were delish! The frosting didn't work as well unfortunately - it tasted really good but didn't stiffen up very well. I took them to work and no-one seemed to notice as they were eaten in seconds!

Slightly less successful were my attempt at the Hummingbird banana cupcakes. The cupcakes turned out well but as you can see the frosting really didn't want to get hard. All I can say it was one of the hotter days of last month!

They did taste really nice, with a banana base which was really moist and flavoursome. I used my favourite caramel Bonne Maman Confiture De Caramel in the frosting and although it didn't set to stay in lovely swirls, it did taste delicious!

Finally, we had a bake sale to raise money for the flood victims in Pakistan last Tuesday so I decided to bake two lots of cupcakes. I made some malted cupcakes with a vanilla and maltester frosting and some good old vanilla. Two seconds into baking my mixer, yes the one I bought just over 3 months ago, broke. So everything was done by hand. Alas I only don't have any picture of the vanilla cupcakes as I was using my phone (the day before my mixer exploded my camera stopped working also..damn), but they were pink and very glittery.

I loaded up a few boxes of cupcakes and schleped them into work in the morning rush hour and I was so happy at how excited everyone got when they saw them - everyone except the 'lady' who organised the sale who didn't say thank you to any of the bakers, and insisted on telling people I'd bought my cupcakes - grrrrr. Jealous much -  her cake was drying than Gandhi's slipper I'm told. My cakes sold out in about 15minutes and I was so happy to receive a lot of emails from my co-workers telling me they enjoyed them and offering to be my taste tester! I think her cake ended up in the bin. All I can say is KARMA!

Monday, 11 October 2010

Cupcakes in a jar

Today's Daily Candy gave us 10 (rather flimsy) reasons why we should eat G Deserts lovely cupcakes in a jar. Just looking at them is enough to encourage me to give them a go!

Cupcakes currently come in six flavours (with more including champagne and fruit cake coming soon - perfect for Christmas I'd say) and two sizes - regular and tester sizes.

I love the look of the red velvet

Oooooh, and the vanilla

well all of them really - they just look really delicious, and very, very cute.

I have emailed G Deserts and hope to pick up a couple to try in the next week or so, so will update you on if they taste as good as they look! If you aren't lucky enough to live in South East London to pick some up, then you can order online, in multiples of 2 per flavour, and the postage charges are very reasonable.

If you fancy making your own cupcakes in a jar (perfect little gifts for Christmas) then check out this blog post from Cakies. Aren't they adorable?

Thanks to G Deserts and Cakies for use of their stunning photographs!

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Can you keep a secret?

Firstly let me apologise for my photos - I still haven't replaced my broken camera so am relying on a pretty crappy phone camera - sorry - I hope to get a new camera this weekend.

I was approached via email a couple of days ago by We are Social asking if I was interested to receive a cupcake with a mystery ingredient

Given your expertise, we’d like to put your taste buds to the test by sending you one of them to try out as soon as they arrive. Rest assured there are no nasty surprises in store!

I was intrigued so gave them my work address and waited patiently for my cupcake. It arrived today much to the delight of our reception girls -they were ever so excited by the little mysterious note on it. I took a pic of the cupcake all nicely wrapped on  the kitchen table at work -  I should've incorporated more of our view in the photo - we have a wonderful view from our office.

Here's the cupcake slightly squished from a bit of a horrific journey home on the bus. Sorry cupcake. Still quite a pretty looking cupcake - and it had glitter on (my camera picks up naff all but it was there I promise), and I do like a cupcake with glitter on.

I spent a while sniffing it before eating it. Mainly to check it wasn't anything gross. I meant to confirm with them there was no seafood in there just incase I nearly died after a bite but I forgot. After a good five minute sniff I decided it definitely wasn't seafood. I could however smell something a little unpleasant but difficult to place. Not something sweet. Not something that should be in a cupcake.

I unwrapped it and it was quite an orangey/red colour with flecks of red in it. I got a bit excited that it may be chilli. It wasn't. I took a little nibble. Not a lot of flavour if I'm honest. But a massive lingering after taste of something wrong. I gave it 10 minutes (could still taste something) and went back for some more. By now I'd pretty much decided on either tomato soup or tomato ketchup from the after taste. I actually tried to make some tomato cupcakes on Sunday using the recipe from Baked and there was a similar after taste, although my tomato cupcakes were incredibly tomato'y and bright red so the after effects were much worse.

I had a little bit of the frosting to see if there was anything secret in there but it seemed to be cream cheese frosting and nothing else - very sweet though.

All in all the cake wasn't very appetising. The base was quite dry and the top was too sweet. And the odd smell was a little off-putting.

I shall post back when I find out what the secret ingredient is and why we were chosen to test these cupcakes.

In the meantime - what's the weirdest thing you've had in a cupcake? Or the weirdest thing you'd like to try and bake with? I think mine is still the bacon cupcake from Batch...shudder.

Oh and thanks to We are Social for thinking of me!

Update 9th Oct: I got an email yesterday from We are Social - the secret ingredient was indeed tomato ketchup so I was (kind of) correct! It is part of Heinz's Secret Ingredient campaign and the recipe for the Tomato Ketchup Cake can be found here (it's for a cake rather than cupcakes but you can adapt if you wish).