Friday, 29 April 2011

Let them eat cake

This month Sarah aka Maison Cupcake has handed over the reigns of Forever Nigella to Mardi of the lovely blog Eat. Live. Travel. Write. As you may have noticed there was a wedding earlier today, so of course the theme for Forever Nigella was Royal Street Party, and, no great surprise here, I couldn't resist making cake.

I also couldn't resist buying up all the baking tat on offer to celebrate the wedding that I could lay my hands on  - including these adorable cases and toppers. I love the corgi one - he appears to be saying "get orf my land commoner".

As you can see I may also have bought some Emma Bridgewater napkins. I hang my head in shame at being so suckered in to this. My house is awash with Union Jacks and a stash of royal wedding memorabilia I bought for my Canadian friend including this - the cutest royal wedding item I've seen.

And even though I wasn't bothered and had gotten sick of the wedding talk on tv, I admit it - I ended up watching it on the tv this morning and having a little sob - underneath this potty mouthed front lurks a romantic at heart! Then again, I do cry at everything - even adverts.

Enough of this wedding faff - what about the cakes. First up is an English classic - the Victoria sponge. Cupcaked. From How to Be A Domestic Goddess this recipe is, as usual for Nigella, a doddle to follow. I've made many a Victoria sponge, but never substituted some of the flour for cornflour before and it really did make a difference - the cake was incredibly moist and wonderfully light.

I managed to get about 16 cupcakes out of the mix, and they took about 20 minutes to bake. I added some extra vanilla to the mix as I love a good vanilla'y sponge. I did toy with putting some blueberries inside the layers to get the red, white and blue effect, however I'm not that keen on blueberries and  I like my Victoria sponge the old fashioned way. However I did go against the WI train of thought on Victoria sponges, and put jam and cream inside - I know they advocate jam only filling but I couldn't resist filling it with lashings of oooozing extra thick Jersey cream. Lets face it if you can't oooooze cream during a Nigella bake off when can you?

Next up I decided to make a fun cupcake version of Prince William's groomsman cake. BTW, when did this American phenomenon come here? Anyways, this cake has been the subject of lots of media coverage as William has opted for something rather unusual for a celebration cake - a version of his childhood favourite, refrigerator cake with rich tea biscuits and chocolate 'baked' by McVities. Nigella has a version of this cake in Express - the rocky road bar, using rich tea biscuits so I had to give it a go. Again, kinda, cupcaked. 

The Palace had told McVities they could use whatever chocolate they liked and I decided to use a mix of Green and Blacks dark and some of their lovely butterscotch as it's one of my favourite bars and I felt the dark chocolate might be a bit bitter. 

I didn't have enough marshmallows to follow Nigella's recipe so I did what I always do when in doubt and threw in a few chopped up Reese's Peanut Butter cups and then topped the lot with some popping candy. Warning if you plan to do this the popping candy occasionally pops when it hits the chocolate - some flew out of the fridge and hit me on the nose which was quite a shock. 

Once they had set I removed them from their little cases and assembled them into a three tier wedding cake -  just as I imagine the cake looked today. 

Not the prettiest looking cake, and I have to say a bit too much chocolate for me but Manny has been enjoying them and the popping candy fascinates the cats.

So I hope you all enjoyed the Royal Wedding and oooh and ahh'd at her dress, I know I did. And I hope you had some lovely cake to eat while you watched it. What did everyone think of the actual cake by Fiona Cairns? It's very pretty but a little plain for me. But then I'm only a commoner! 

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Easter bunny cupcakes

I wasn't really going to bother with Easter cupcakes as our house was already overflowing after a baking frenzy last week (more to come on that in another post), however I got a new tip and had a glut of clementines in the house so decided last night to whip up something delicious with a slight Easter theme!

The cupcakes themselves were based on a lovely recipe I saw on fellow cake enthusiast The Caked Crusader's blog. The recipe can be found here - I halved it and got 6 cupcakes and instead of using orange juice I used the juice of lots of freshly squeezed clementines. Simple.

I used my own vanilla frosting recipe, halved and replaced the milk with clementine juice. Then came the fun part - piping with my new nozzle.  Well it would've been fun if it hadn't been about 100 degrees in my kitchen and the frosting wasn't going soupy after a couple of minutes. I persevered and it kind of worked - but the heat still kept melting it when on the cupcake, so I went against everything I believe and put them in the fridge to stay non-soupy and set about the very simple decoration I planned.

Warning the photographs below contain scenes of bunny decapitation - look away now if easily shocked!

First you take one of these

the delicious Malteaster bunny shaped treat from Malteser. Now unwrap him....

and then...

chop his head off with a lovely pink knife. Or any knife you have. The main point is you must decapitate the bunny.

After this it's pretty straightforward. Take your cupcake and sit the decapitated bunny head on top amongst your grassy frosting. Again, simple.

As you can see my grass frosting didn't quite work out as I'd hoped but I know it will next time - when my kitchen isn't warmer than the centre of the earth! It still manages to look rather cute in my opinion - especially when you remove the cases.

And as for the taste - you can see from the yearning in the Lindt Bunnies eyes he wants one because they taste really good. The clementine juice gives a really moist cake, it's possibly one of the moistest cakes I've made. The flavour was rather subtle (the outside of the clementines weren't really good enough to grate some peel in as I would usually have done), but really tasty.

If you're a bit too squeamish to chop the head off a bunny for your own cupcake pleasure then feel free to decorate in any other way you choose.

Finally, I can confirm the bunny was still decapitated this morning, it had not, in the spirit of Easter re-attached it's head and 'come back to life'. So we ate it. 

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Let them eat cupcakes

I know, I know, I'm not fussed either, but it would seem some of you are!  So if you are excited about the Wedding, and about cupcakes (and if you aren't excited about cupcakes not sure why you're reading this blog!) then this could be the perfect t-shirt for you.

Available from Cupcake Betty.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

An-Tea Establishment

As mentioned in the last post I'm not that fussed about the Royal Wedding but I do like cake, and punk. Which means I really want to go to the An-Tea Establishment afternoon tea at the Met bar. It looks right up my street, I love rhubarb and custard cupcakes! And macaroons. And roly poly.

Savoury dishes include ‘quiche a la fergie’, breadless cucumber sandwiches, prawn cocktails and a warm Wensleydale cheese & pickle muffin. For those with a sweet tooth, ‘strawberries & cream’ macaroons, rhubarb & custard cupcakes, organic compote roly-poly and many more all feature on our delicious hand-made menu.

Available for a limited period between 22nd April - 8th May, 3-6pm. Price £27 + service charge (12.5%) per person. All reservations must be made at least 24 hours in advance.

Anyone want to come with me, doubt Manny will fancy it. You can have my prawns (I'm allergic)

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Vegan D'oh!nuts and cupcakes at Ms Cupcake

I've been meaning to visit the new Ms Cupcake store in Brixton since the opening day on April 1st but hangovers, holidays and life in general has gotten in the way till today.

Firstly please accept my apologies for the pics - I forgot my camera, was using my iPhone, and the sun was shining directly into the store so everything pretty much had my reflection in it...grrrr. But, the sun shining is a good thing - the shop is a great sun trap with windows on three sides making it light and lovely. It is also much bigger than I thought it would be, with some lovely tables outside so you can enjoy your vegan goodies there and then, with drinks from Rosie's Deli next door if you choose (not sure if they do vegan drinks - sorry!).

When I arrived fellow cupcake blogger Kelly of An American Cupcake in London had just arrived,  and Jason immediately started preparing a plate of goodies for us to try, including the item that had ensured we both visited today - the vegan doughnuts. 

As readers will know I'm already a fan of Ms C's cupcakes, so after reading yesterday on Twitter that they were now doing doughnuts I thought it was the perfect opportunity to try something different. We got 3 mini doughnuts each (I like to call them doughnut middles as they seem like the little bit you'd poke out of a ring doughnut - is that weird?) - sugar, cinnamon and Boston cream. All three were nice, the cinnamon was very cinnamon'y, and the Boston cream was definitely my favourite. We also got two cookie sandwiches; a vanilla filled and a chocolate filled. I ate the vanilla one there but just couldn't manage any more and took the chocolate one home to share with Manny. It was delicious -  I preferred the chocolate cookie to the vanilla (unusual for me!). 

Jason came out and had a chat with us and told us how busy they'd been and how they had lots of plans for other vegan treats - the whole time people going in and buying cupcakes and goodies. It was really nice to see it doing so well - the staff were incredibly busy!

Before leaving we checked out the cupcake range and each bought a key lime cupcake (they looked too nice to resist).  I also bought Manny a chocolate sprinkled doughnut and we headed off into Brixton Market. Thanks to Ms C's advice I saved myself a lot of money and managed to pick up a mini bundt tin for £2 in one of those 'pound' shop places. It had a vast array of trays so if you want to know where it was let me know. Also if you're looking for a human sized saucepan Brixton Market is your place.

I walked Kelly back to the station and did some more shopping, and managed to find banana extract - something I've been searching everywhere for. Yay!

When Manny came home we tried out my takeaway goodies.

First up the chocolate doughnut. Manny and I really enjoyed it (I particularly liked the chocolate coating), but felt it needed to be a little bit more sticky and doughnut'y. Still really nice but I did prefer the little stuffed ones.

The key lime cupcake was AMAZING! Really moist, citrus'y and flavoursome, you can tell they were baked fresh and not sat on a shelf for days. The fabulous shocking green frosting was really tart, packed full of flavour, and not overly sweet, but instead refreshing. Oh, and there was LOTS of it! A much needed great cupcake after yesterdays shocker! 

Every time I eat one of Ms C's cupcakes I'm trying to figure out how she makes things taste so good without my favourite baking ingredient, butter. Perhaps I need to sit outside watching them bake all day to see what I can pick up!

I highly recommend people pop over to the Brixton store, 408 Coldhabour Lane, Brixton, London SW9 8LF, to pick up a cupcake or two! You might spot me outside trying to learn a vegan baking secret or two! 

Friday, 15 April 2011

We don't need no vegetation

In February I reported about a new cupcake* company on the block, Petit Pois, who were aiming to make us  less tubby cupcake eaters with their healthy take on the cupcake.  Their USP is that their cupcakes are healthy, gluten and lactose free and less than 180 kcal per cupcake, oh as the packaging reminds us "there are more grated vegetables in these magical cakes than any other ingredient". 

I was slightly sceptical of these as they just seemed to be bandwagon jumping - eventually someone always comes out with the healthy version of everything, but in the name of blog research I finally got round to popping along to Selfridges yesterday to buy some.

There were two flavour combinations available - lemon and orange, or vanilla and chocolate. As readers of this blog know, we always opt for vanilla and chocolate so this was perfect. I paid my £5 and carried them home.

As you can see they like to remind you that these cakes are HEALTHY cakes. As if the lack of a giant wodge of buttercream isn't reminder enough.

First up the vanilla.

The vanilla cupcake contains 29% courgette and a lot of other stuff including rice flour (13%). I am not sure if it was the rice flour that made it taste funky, or as Manny put it HORRIFIC, but there was most definitely something wrong with this cupcake. It was VILE. I couldn't even swallow my first bite of sponge and rather disgustingly had to spit it into my hand. Their was an indescribably offensive taste to the cake and the texture was revolting - it kind of broke up in your mouth and was so unpleasant I just couldn't swallow it. I tried some of the fondant topping, which I thought couldn't be bad. I was wrong - it was repulsive. The ingredients include lots of stuff like agar, locust bean gum, glucose syrup - I'm not sure which of them made it taste overly sweet and really unpleasant but it certainly didn't taste like anything healthy.

More than three quarters of the cake ended up in the bin (Manny swallowed his bite!). So that's a cupcake with less than 180 calories - and I just saved myself all of those calories. Is this how they stop making you fat(ter)? by making them too disgusting to eat?

Next the chocolate.

The chocolate cupcake contains 29% beetroot and again to me tasted weird. Manny said it was chocolaty but I couldn't really get it at all, perhaps because chocolate is the 3rd last listed ingredient? In fairness cocoa powder is slightly higher, as the 5th last but still to me tasted incredibly wrong. The fondant again tasted odd and cloying and the texture of the cake was again flaky and unpleasant in your mouth. At least I managed to swallow my bite of this one. Manny ate it, but he also said it had a cabbage like taste. I asked Manny if he'd eat another of the chocolate ones and he said no, he also refused to take a second bite of the vanilla one to describe it further.

Also, both cakes seemed pretty stale to me - but that could just be the lack of any kind of moisture giving ingredient.

So there you have it - vegetable cupcakes are gross.

Execpt they aren't. I've made beetroot cupcakes before and they're delicious. I've bought courgette cupcakes that rock and let's not forget sprouts. And it's not the lack of things like milk and butter either - hello, Ms Cupcakes cakes are vegan and don't make me spit up. My opinion is that these cupcakes just try so hard to be healthy they've forgotten that the end product has to be tasty and edible. They may be healthy, but to me they seem like a fad, a way to make money off those poor Stylist readers who so want to eat cupcakes and be thin. My advice, if you're dieting don't eat cupcakes all the time but treat yourself to a proper one occasionally -these really are not a substitute for real cake. I really hope others agree and these horrific excuses for cake are off our shelves soon. However I have a horrid feeling magazines like Stylist and other fashionista types will keep them going. Although the one good sign that people may have more taste was that I was the only twonk buying these (there were lots of boxes of these going out of date v.soon unsold) while everyone else ooh'd and aaaah'd over Lola's display - how I'm kicking myself now I didn't go there instead!!

Finally, as you may recall our cat Angel LOVES cupcakes and usually we can't keep her away - however this picture speaks a thousand words.

When Pudding Cat refuses to move towards the cake you know you have a bad 'un!

*Btw I've called these cupcakes throughout my review as this is what they are marketed as. In my opinion they are fairy cakes - buttercream on top = cupcake, fondant on top = fairy cake.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

I Heart Cupcakes goes to Madrid

We recently popped to Madrid for a long weekend to see Manowar and rather than just hang around seeing the usual sights and eating Tapas we opted instead to see the 6 month old baby twin pandas, De De and Po, at Madrid Zoo, and, of course, eat some cupcakes.

This was my second visit to Madrid, and alas again we didn't make it to Cupcake Madrid (we opted to go and see De De and Po again on the Monday instead - they were too cute not to see again!), but we did make it to two others.

First up was Happy Day Bakery - a cute little bakery that sells American goods, was about 5 minutes away from our hotel in Malasaña.

We were hoping to enjoy a cold drink and a cupcake when we arrived but alas there were only two seats, which were occupied, so although this claims to be a cafe I'd say it's a bakery where if you're lucky you can sit down. At night I think you can buy hot dogs and baked goods from the little window on the right of the picture till the small hours.

The bakery inside was very cute and very retro. The guy serving behind the counter was dressed in a 60s style uniform and it all added to the kitsch factor. The cakes looked quite pretty and homemade. Afer some deliberation (we didn't understand some of the flavours), we opted for an Oreo for Manny and a vanilla cake topped with dulce de leche for me - I can't resist that stuff.

My cake came topped with a home made marshmallow dipped in something (candy melts?) I wasn't sure but it tasted good and I snuffled it all. The cake itself was fresh but had a rather odd scent/taste to it - like almond rather than vanilla, perhaps due to the essence being used rather than extract? While the cake tasted ok, and fresh, it was just too sweet for me with the topping - which was like the sweetest dulce de leche ever. I can eat that stuff with a spoon but alas this was too sweet for me, but Manny, and his incredibly sweet tooth, rescued the day and ate it!

Manny's oreo cupcake was again fresh and quite tasty, but again for me too sweet. The frosting was again incredibly sweet -it's like they don't use any butter, just sugar and some other melted sugar to mix it! I think the Oreo on top was home made as well - and I had a nibble and it was really nice.

If you have a sweet tooth, and are in Madrid,  I recommend you pop by Happy Bakery, but I probably wouldn't bother again - except to buy Manny cake!

Next up was Saturday's cupcake find. We'd been out drinking till quite late at the Lemmy Bar in the metal friendly area Arguelles, and Manny couldn't face going out so I went for a little wander in the 30degree heat and chanced upon Cosmen and Keiless panderia and pastelria with these little fellows sitting in the window looking at me.

The lady in the bakery was lovely and didn't mock my attempts at Spanish (a language I must make an attempt to learn!) and kindly packaged up the cake and some home made croissants for me to take away. 

Again for me the cake was too sweet, as were the croissants which were covered in a melted sugar syrup, but, again Manny loved them and polished the lot off! Although sweet, the cake was very fresh and very tasty so I would recommend if you're nearby to pop in. According to their website they have other cupcakes, but on the day I visited only this one was available. They also have the Madrid speciality torrijas which are kind of like a French Toast. I didn't try one but they did look nice!

Apart from cupcakes we also had

A wonderful dulce de leche cheesecake from Starbucks. I know, I know, Starbucks in Madrid, but Manny was asleep and I needed coffee after a night drinking bourbon and I figured if I couldn't order in Spanish I could order in Starbucks language. It worked, and the cheesecake was really nice - much nicer than any cake in UK Starbucks!

Manny had some chocolate cake and I had a dulce de leche cake at a lovely little cafe, La Cocina de mi Vecina, again, near the hotel after hours of walking round the zoo on the Friday - we also had some carrot juice and pear and ginger juice freshly squeezed so the cake was basically cancelled out. The carrot and orange juice was surprisingly tasty btw!

Finally Manny had some chocolate cake at Starbucks as well (again there was a good reason - we needed a clean loo - don't ask). I had none as was too ill to eat, but Manny said it was very moist and very chocolaty.

Monday, 4 April 2011

Ladurée cupcakes sont délicieux, mais cher

Today was my first proper day of being unemployed. Or self employed if you look at it that way - I've just not done much about the self employed bit yet. Friday didn't really count as I spent most of it in bed hungover after leaving drinks. Incase anyone's wondering I didn't tell those I disliked how I felt about them - best to move on with some dignity - although not sure how much of that I retained as we left the building (sober) singing So long, farewell, Auf wiedersehen, adieu to everyone.

So, to celebrate me leaving work we decided to spend a lovely day in London - including trying some very special cupcakes I'd read about some time ago, and could now, without a trip to Paris, try.

Cupcakes from my favourite Parisian Tea room - Ladurée!!

We had hoped to eat in the tea room in Harrods, but it was very busy (mainly with groups of tourists only having drinks...and a very rude French group who pushed and shoved and touched the food they wanted while barking at the staff - I mentioned excuse moi to the pokey 'lady', but wish I'd said excusez-moi merde tête instead. I do love to swear at people in their own tongue), so we opted for takeaway.

There were only two cupcakes on offer - the rose and the chocolate orange, although their menu outside showed their cupcakes as being the rose and a pistachio griotte. I got the last rose one so was incredibly chuffed - until I saw the price!!

We paid for our cakes and took them home very carefully on the bus. I was scared to open the box when we finally arrived, incase they had turned to mush (we'd had a little incident in Sainsburys where I'd boshed them slightly) but as you can see they survived!! Phew!

They are totally gorgeous aren't they? I'm going to allow them to call it a cupcake, although I've always gone with there being some kind of whipped buttercream'y frosting on top of a cupcake and fondant being fairy cake (this is how I differentiate - I'm not getting into a cupcake v fairy cake debate again).

We were worried that they wouldn't be tasty after spending all that money, but thank goodness they were delicious. You could tell as soon as you picked it up that it was incredibly fresh as they smelt divine. My rose cake was moist and filled with a delicious fruit compote, then a layer of fresh whipped cream, fondant, and more piped cream - all of it was melt in your mouth fresh and lovely.

Manny's chocolate orange was incredibly moist and fresh also - with lovely bits of peel and chocolate inside.

So, was London's most expensive cupcake worth it? I'd say yes but only as a one off/treat - I'm never going to buy a box of four from there on a whim - they are just too expensive.

When in Ladurée I think I'm always going to choose a few macaroon instead - that's right a few, I can get about 4 or 5 minis for the price of a cupcake.

Yes, they really were £6 each (£7.20 if you have them in the tea room!!).

Is this London's most expensive cupcake?