Friday, 25 March 2011

De-constructed oozing Tiramisu

Ciao lettori bella, this months Forever Nigella theme was Italian,  Ciao Italia, and had to either be an Italian recipe or a recipe which showcased an Italian ingredient.

I had my thinking hat on for some time, until this weekends deadline was looming and I'd still baked nothing. Then inspiration struck, I decided to make a version of Nigella's Irish Cream Tiramisu from Nigella Express but instead of using the Savoiardi as the base for the dreamy gooey marscapone (Italian!!) mixture I baked some of Nigella's cupcakes, from How to be a Domestic Goddess using my new filled cupcake tray, a birthday gift from my gorgeous friend Rene in Chicago.

The cupcakes were a doddle to make and filled 11 of the wholes in my tray. I wasn't complaining though as (a) it meant I could like the bowl clean (and it was delicious batter- just the kind I like, nice consistency and nice and sweet but not too much - you can tell how good a cake is going to be from the batter!) and (b) It meant I had a spare if need be, or I could just eat it as a tester!

When they came out of the oven it was a bit of a faff to get them out of the moulds, even though it says they're non stick and will come out with no hassle (I slightly greased the tins as well just incase). Most came out ok, although some of the swirly edges weren't keen to release.

Instead of Irish Cream I used a hefty glug of Marsala (Italian!!) mixed with some fabulously strong Monmouth coffee I bought earlier in the day. The girl in Monmouth was lovely, helping me choose the right blend for this -  you don't get that service in Starbucks, or many other "fancy" cafes for that matter. I dunked the cake tops and bottoms in the mixture, maybe a little too much as they got quite moist, and then left them to dry a bit.

The tiramisu topping was made with marscapone, egg yolks, sugar and a whisked egg white. Oh, and lashings more Marsala. This is where I think I went a little wrong as I added some extra booze as I like my tiramisu to have a good kick so my topping didn't set quite enough I think, or this could be because we didn't set it in the traditional way.

As you can see it's a little runny but it tasted really nice so we slapped it into the cavity on the bottom cupcake, then placed the top of the cupcake which had some more of the filling inside. Be warned these cupcakes aren't very pretty but they do taste amazing!

Ooooh look it's a bit of a gooey mess....and it's about to get worse....

We poured a little more of the filling over the top to soak the Marsala soaked cupcake some more, and covered with a dusting of cocoa. As Nigella might say the topping ooozed seductively down the cupcake topper.

It doesn't look the prettiest cupcake but boy was it good - very rich and very boozy but very very good.

I can see Nigella pouting seductively at the camera eating this, she does love food that oooozes after all!

Thursday, 24 March 2011

A rum do - the daiquiri cupcakes that taste of nothing

Last week while doing my usual trawl of the internet for cupcake goodies I discovered these beautiful cupcake cases from Hus and Hem and I just had to get them. As well as the gorgeous Snorkmaiden ones, I got green Moomin ones and some huge oriental cases - they are massive!! 

I also got, just seen in the top picture, Cake Days, the second book by Tarek Malouf of the Hummingbird Bakery and spent some time deciding what to bake with from it that was suitable for my moomin cases. 

Then I remembered that Moominpappa makes punch that includes strawberry liquer and decided to make some strawberry daiquiri cupcakes. In the book these are actually mini cupcakes, but they have different timings at the back in the extensive notes so I thought it'd be simple enough. 

We bought some rum and some strawberries and got baking. Well first we had to make some sugar syrup - with a load of rum in it, in which you basically boiled off all the alcohol from the rum making it a rather expensive sugar syrup. Hurumpf. Deciding I wanted a proper cocktail cupcake, I bunged in some more rum after the sugar syrup cooled - who wants a virgin cupcake? Once my strawberries were soaking in the boozy syrup I got to work on the cupcake. 

The recipe called for very little butter,  lots of sugar, and only one egg. When I started making it I really had some doubts about whether they'd work - the mix just looked and felt wrong. It's all pretty normal, you mix, you put into the cupcake cases with the boozy strawberries (drained from the syrup) and put them in the oven. The book says you will get 24 - 30 mini cupcakes which I assume to be half size(ish) - I got 8 or so quite measly sized normal cupcakes. 

I baked them till they were golden brown and springy to the touch - however there was a bit of a wrong feel about them. You know when you can just tell? Anyways, I carried on. I put the reserved alcoholic sugar syrup on the cakes, not realising that later in the recipe it tells you you should've reserved some. Double hurumpf. 

Apart from feeling wrong, they looked prettyish in their case and domed really well, so I gave them the benefit of the doubt and cracked on with the frosting. Of course I didn't have the reserved sugar syrup so I substituted it with a hefty glug of rum. The frosting worked quite well and had a nice fresh taste from the lime zest, however it didn't pipe very well as my beloved 1M nozzle got squished and kinda squirty out a bit funny. They did scrub up quite well though.

Alas they look much prettier than they tasted. I can only say they tasted overly sweet with a really unpleasant after-taste. The cake was sticky (could've been the sugar syrup cuz I used too much?) and also that cheap muffin like texture you get from bad cupcakes. Really not to my taste - I actually couldn't swallow more than one bite. Manny being the guzzly guts that he is decided to persevere and ate one, saying it was ok, but then he decided on the second one they really weren't and gave up.

I will try some other recipes from the book as they look really good - there are some lovely looking whoopies in there, but I may use the cupcakes for ideas only as these were incredibly disappointing.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Recent cupcake round up

I've put off doing this post as I find it incredibly depressing to write about awful cupcakes but alas these lot have been inedible and I feel it's only fair you share my pain - if not the cost of all these cakes we don't eat!! I really don't know what is going on with the cupcake world, but it would seem that lots of people out there are selling some truly awful, and in some cases inedible cupcakes. Who keeps buying these cakes?

First up from our trip to the Ideal Home Show on Wednesday is Katy's Cupcakes

The cakes looked really pretty, with some nice decorative touches. We opted to buy two (Manny wanted a box of four for a fiver - thank god we didn't!)

We opted for a Jack Daniels and a Baileys Chocolate. The Baileys one was edible but the cake part was dry and there wasn't much flavour of baileys. The Jack Daniels one however had a very unpleasant taste. The frosting and cake were drier than a popcorn fart. The 'chocolate' swirl on top I gave to Manny and the look of disgust that he had when he tried it is something that I wont' forget - he said it had a completely unpleasant after-taste and wasn't like chocolate at all.

All in all, not recommended.

Next up is another Ideal Homes purchase from Babycakes. We didn't really get off to a good start with Babycakes - I asked could I take some pics of her stall and she snipply replied "I should charge for it as everyone wants a picture of my cakes". She could stop people asking for photos by offering samples of her cakes - that'd put anyone off.

I bought a Cherry Bakewell and a chocolate for Manny. The cherry bakewell looked pretty but tasted of nothing at all. The frosting and sponge were rock hard. The bit of frosting I broke off tasted of nothing but off butter. Manny's chocolate was the same - inedible.

Some of the remains of the cake.

Next up is an old favourite, which in recent times has not been good, Primrose Bakery.

Manny had a chocolate which didn't taste all that chocolatey but was fresh enough to eat. My peanut butter one had a really dry base and an unpleasant after-taste and, you guessed it, ended up in the bin.

We also got an Afghan Biscuit from there as I really liked it last time I had one (about 2 years ago) but this was hard and pretty impossible to eat.

I'm not sure what's happened to the quality in Primrose but I've made their peanut butter cupcakes at home and they were lush. Maybe they should give me a job?

Last month we finally got round to checking out The Cupcake Company in Kensington. I should've gone to Hummingbird as at least the cakes would've been good.

Firstly sorry about the photos, the cakes got a little squished, and also my frosting actually came off whole in the box so I had to replace it. I knew from this that the frosting or cake wasn't going to be fresh. Oh and my poor elephant was decapitated on the journey!

I had a vanilla which tasted of absolutely nothing. Is it really that difficult to make a good vanilla cupcake? I keep getting vanilla cupcakes that have not a hint of vanilla in them. Why is it so difficult? A baker I wrote about on here said her customers like them to be not to vanilla'y, but surely a hint of it would be good? The frosting tasted of nothing but whipped butter.

Manny's chocolate cupcake wasn't incredibly flavoursome either. However, the malted cookie we bought was delicious, and I'd actually go back for their cookies.

Keep going, we're nearly there.

The last two are cupcakes from Bea's of Bloomsbury's new outlet at One New Change. I've enjoyed some cupcakes by Bea before and we decided to pop to the new place at the end of December, during the snowy times to grab a couple of festive cupcakes and enjoy a Baileys Hot chocolate. The new cafe is gorgeous and so were the cupcakes - to look at.

We opted for a baileys chocolate cupcake and a gingerbread one. To this day I'm still not sure the right person ate the right cake as the flavours were so subtle they weren't noticeable. The cakes themselves were fresh but just tasted of absolutely nothing, as did the frosting, which was rather disappointing.

Finally, lets end on something a little more positive. At the Ideal Home Show on Wednesday Mich Turner from Little Venice Cake Company was doing a session in the theatre so of course we went along to watch. She was making this divine looking Helter Skelter Chocolate Cake and showing you how to decorate it with chocolate and chocolate roses.

Isn't it stunning? I had to stop Manny running at the stage and trying to dive in for a bite!

While Mich was presenting her piece she suddenly stopped and said "oh hello" while starting directly at me. She then proceeded to mention my blog a couple of times and say how I'd written a wonderful piece about the decorating class of hers I went to. My blog got a further mention when she started making the roses and she said I'd made them in December! I was so chuffed, and a little embarrassed at everyone starting at me but I was so touched that she actually remembered my blog name!

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Brownie pops with a twist

On Thursday a lovely package of goodies arrived at work from Frank PR as part of their campaign for Hellman's Mayonnaise. I had been due to go along to a tasting on Tuesday night but as it was my first day back at work for a week I was there till nearly 7 so couldn't make it so this was sent so I could try out their recipe for posh brownies.

Now I do like a brownie, and I'm quite partial to a bit of mayo on a sandwich, but together? Sacre bleu. Or blurgh I was thinking.

How wrong I was. The recipe was a doddle to follow and I only changed a couple of things. I used my own vanilla extract as I just don't use essence ever, and I omitted the walnuts as I had plans for these little brownies!

The brownie was incredibly moist, rich and very chocolaty. No hint of mayo at all. When I mixed the mayo into the mixture pre-baking it just looked and smelt wrong so I was glad it baked away. I can 100% say that these brownies were a revelation to me and are now probably  my go to brownie recipe. Also I'm chuffed to have been introduced to Waitrose chocolate for baking. I must admit to being a bit of a baking snob and only usually using Green & Blacks but that can get very expensive, although I do tend to buy it when it's on offer!

So rather than just stick to scoffing some incredibly delicious, but lets face it rather boring looking brownies, I decided to get all Westwood on them and pimp them slightly. But without the fake ghetto accent.

Not particularly original but I decided to pop my brownies! I basically mooshed up the brownie mixture and rolled it with a teeny bit of melted chocolate (I did buy some *gasp* Betty Crocker frosting to mix into it but I just couldn't do it!) and then dunked them in some melted chocolate.

There were a few pop casualties on the way but the ones that survived were pretty and tasted rather lovely.  The ones that didn't make it were quickly thrown into the leftover melted chocolate and given to Manny for lunch as a chocolate fondue type of thing - just as well he's off to the gym tomorrow night!

You can find the recipe for Hellman's Mayonnaise brownies here, and a video (with the crying one off "celeb" Masterchef so I've not watched it - it may have put me off making the brownies) showing you how to make them here.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Un petite post

Starbucks have launched a range of Petite Treats and although we aren't lucky enough to get the Petite cupcakes they have in the States (including the divine looking mini peanut butter cupcake) I thought I'd do a little post about them.

The range includes three cake pops; sparkle, rocky road and almond and two whoopies; chocolate and red velvet. The almond cake pop seems to have replaced the American Tiramisu cake pop, which I prefer the sound of!

As a Starbucks card holder I was lucky enough to get a voucher for a freebie mini today so I popped into the one on Bankside and couldn't resist picking up two petites (they are mini after all!).

First up was the red velvet whoopie. I must say, and I may lose readers here, this was as good, if not better than a couple of store bought whoopies I've had. It looks a bit shiny in the pic, mainly due to our office being lit up like Blackpool at the time of the Illuminations, but it wasn't. It was a perfectly edible flavoursome whoopie. The cake/cookie part was perfectly fresh and the filling was tasty, if a little bland (could've done with more vanilla).

My second choice was...can you guess?....the sparkle cake pop. Hello, sparkles! (Manny can insert some smart ass "oooh I sparkle" joke about Edward Cullen here but that's only because he's a bitter old fart who doesn't get Twilight).

Firstly, let me apologise for the photos. I took the cake pop home and alas some of its sparkle stayed in the bag when I took it out. Also my kitchen is the opposite of my office and is lit like a Chilean coal mine. Only darker.

So the pop. I've said before I'm not that fussed about cake pops - often they have too much frosting to cake ratio, but this one really didn't. The chocolate outside was really tasty and the middle was moist but not overly so (Kelly seemed to get a wet cake pop, which just doesn't sound nice so maybe I got lucky!). Either way it was really delicious - one of the better cake pops I've tried. I hear gasps from the cake purists out there but as you know I'm nothing if honest and I really enjoyed this cake pop and would eat it again!

I'm not sure if Starbucks will be offering the free petite on a Thursday again but they often do offers for card holders so it's worth getting one!

23rd March - quick update: we popped to the Kings Road Starbucks the other day and bought a couple of coffees and cake pops - both were stored in the fridge so when we tried to eat them they were hard and incredibly cold. They'd probably have been fine if brought to room temperature but as we wanted them with our coffee it was rather disappointing. Manny reports that it was really nice but a bit firm.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Drowning my sorrows in cupcakes

Last weekend saw me descend into my last year of my 30's. Not only was I old(er) but to make matters worse my birthday was on a Sunday I couldn't get to my favourite cupcake emporium for some birthday goodies as I was in the wilds of the Highlands of Scotland visiting my mum as a surprise for her 60th so no Kooky for me!

We spent 5 days in Scotland and it wasn't until the 4th day that we discovered some cupcakes. We did find some other lovely cakes but no cupcakes. FYI Mohammed Al Fayed's cafe at Shin Falls does a wonderful meringue!

My first birthday cupcake was from the local bakers in Dingwall, Deas. They have two outlets on Dingwall High Street, including a cafe where you can sit with a cup of tea and the pie or cake of your choice. Manny went for a haggis, neeps and tatties pie (shudder) and we got the cupcakes to take away. The lovely girl serving gave us a free cupcake after deciding the pink one was too girlie for Manny. He has this effect on girls -they often give him free cake!

My cupcake was a vanilla sponge with some raspberry frosting. I didn't hold out much hope for it as it looked kinda blah (the holes on top worried me) if I'm honest but it was actually quite nice! It was moist and the frosting was really tasty - which is more than can be said for cupcakes from many of Time Outs recent list of the best cupcakes in London (more on that in another post!).

Manny's was plain vanilla and he seemed to enjoy it. Again it ended up in his belly rather than the bin so result. You can see the holes on the top of the cake in this pic - I think its from either over mixing of the oven being too hot? The cake underneath was moist though and the frosting wasn't just a lump of sugar or flavourless butter so all was good.

Our second cupcake in Scotland was from a small cafe inside Inverness Airport. This one looked a little prettier than Deas' offering but alas it was all style and no substance. My raspberry and white chocolate was overly sweet and didn't really taste of anything much. The middle raspberry jam made it slightly better but unfortunately I couldn't eat most of it. 

Manny's mocha chocolate fared better and he said it was incredibly chocolaty. He scoffed the lot so it must've been ok.

The highlight of Inverness Airport for me wasn't the cupcake but spotting Danny Dyer there. I would've gone and said hello as I have a bit of a crush on him but he looked so hungover I couldn't bring myself to bother him!

Back in London we decided to have a little day after my birthday celebration with lunch and a cupcake. I choose Moolis as my lunch venue (yum) and we headed to Hummingbird to try one of their new daily specials. Monday's special is chocolate fondant; a rich chocolate sponge, with a decadent chocolate fondant centre, iced with a rich chocolate cream.

I don't know what to say really. This cake was nice but nothing that special. It was chocolaty but didn't really taste of chocolate. There was a depth of flavour that was missing - when I compare it to the Gü cupcake from Lola's it just wasn't in the same league. I found it a little dry and the fondant centre in mine appeared to have been forgotten. The frosting was ok but again not chocolaty enough somehow, yet, a little too rich for me. I'm not sure if its due to the chocolate they used or what - I'll be trying the recipe from the book Cake Days when it's out to see if it fares better when I bake it using Green and Blacks - my trusty baking chocolate of choice!  Manny of course scoffed it and some of mine, although he agreed the Gü cupcake was better!

I will be popping back to try Tuesday's flavour - S'moreAnne cupcake - how could I resist it! And perhaps on a Sunday for their Boston Cream Pie one, a cupcake I've been meaning to make forever!

The best thing about our visit was the cheesecake brownie we shared - we couldn't say no to it. And it's not every day you turn nearly 40!