Friday, 27 May 2011

Cupcake decorating and a gift from the Fairy Hobmother

I've been a bit lax at blogging lately, sorry, but as some of you may know I've been busy setting up a business to sell my own cupcakes. I've finally tired of buying bad cupcakes and have decided to give it a go myself. More details about it will follow soon..

As mentioned in a previous blog, my first stall is going to be at Going for a Song Vintage jumble at the Amersham Arms next Saturday, June 4th. I aim to have 5 or so flavours there so hope some of you can come along and taste them! There is an offer available for the event via my website so please check out the events section if you plan to come along. It's free entry and is in a pub, so you can enjoy a pint or a coffee/tea with your cake, and from the other vendors I've seen it will include some fabulous clothes and jewellery.

Anyhow, in anticipation of baking for others, including a wedding I've been asked to do, I thought I'd do a course at one of my favourite cupcake bakers, The Gourmet Cupcake Company. Originally I was just going to do the wedding and fondant masterclass course, however I thought I'd do the original course as well and I'm so glad I did. Eloise is a great teacher, the classes were really informal but very informative. We baked cakes, learning some insider secrets, and then got to decorating. Although this is perhaps more for a beginner, even as an experienced baker I learned some new techniques and I really recommend her courses for everyone. I can't wait for my wedding course next month - just looking at the lovely cupcakes Eloise has made for previous weddings has me all excited as to what I'm going to make!

As well as making exciting cupcakes, and business planning, I've also been lucky enough to be visited by the Appliances Online Fairy Hobmother. Appliances Online offer everything from cookers to my ultimate want for my kitchen, the pink Smeg fridge, and after I'd left a comment on Eat Like A Girl's blog post the Fairy Hobmother visited me with a prize. I didn't win an appliance (boo!) but I was chosen to carry on the gifting chain and was awarded some Amazon vouchers (yay!) - something I will always use.  Never mind shoes, I can never have too many cookbooks.

As I'm carrying on the chain, the Fairy Hobmother is offering a lucky commenter on this blog a prize so please leave a comment below to be in with a chance to win a lovely gift from him. Perhaps you could share with us your favourite item in your kitchen -  I'm going with my gorgeous pink Kitchenaid.

Leave a comment by Friday June 3rd to win. Good luck.

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

I've got a lovely bunch of coconuts

These raspberry and coconut cupcakes are slightly adapted from a recipe in another of my recent additions to my groaning cook book shelves, Oliver Peyton's, British Baking. The book is full of recipes that make your mouth water - I have a lot of markers on pages of recipes I must make asap, but as soon as I saw these cupcakes I knew I had to make them - two of my favourite ingredients in cupcake form = delicious.

The cakes were very straightforward to make and I pretty much followed the recipe. Next time I would add more coconut though as I thought the taste was quite subtle.  I didn't get 12 cupcakes but rather 8, and they were domed within the cases, not huge - perhaps if you use smaller cases you'd get 12.

Once the cupcakes cooled slightly, I brushed them with one of my new favourite liqueurs, Chambord Black Raspberry Liqueur. I have brushed this onto cupcakes a couple of times now and I love it - it gives a little kick to your cake.

The frosting was a coconut Swiss meringue which was delicious. I often find that Swiss meringue frosting tastes of nothing but butter when I've bought cupcakes in shops that offer it, however this one was really nice, although the coconut milk didn't give it enough of a coconut kick and I think next time I'd put in less vanilla, and a bit of coconut extract.

They still tasted divine though, and I would definitely make these again. I used Tulameen raspberries which gave a lovely flavour to the cakes and really contrasted with the sweetness of the cake.

If you'd like to try these cupcakes you can come along to the Going for a Song vintage clothes jumble on June 4th at the Amersham Arms in New Cross where I'll be selling my cupcakes, including these.

Finally I thought I'd share these lovely wrappers the people at Cupcake Wrappers sent me.

The wrappers come in lots of different designs, including my favourite featuring cute needlework birds. The wrappers are washable and reusable and I think they'd be really nice for a display of your cupcakes. And it helps cover up when your cases go see through when baked (hello Cath Kidston)

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Eurovision Kuchen

Even though I'm a heavy metal girl through and through it has been a tradition in my life to watch Eurovision every year - mainly with a bottle of alcohol and lots of tv treats, so this year I thought I'd bake up something delicious to scoff while we watch.

As you may know tonight the UK is being represented by Blue - a band that I only really know of because I think Lee Ryan is an utter knob. Google him and read some of his 'thoughts' and you'll realise why. Oh yeah and another one of them thinks it's acceptable to urinate in the street. While using a cash machine. Twat.

However I couldn't resist making some Eurovision cupcakes in their honour - well I had a glut of fruit to use up and ta da....

the Blue cupcake was born. It is basically a basic vanilla cupcake with some puréed blueberries in it and a dash of blue food colouring. Then they are covered in a lemon buttercream frosting. And they are quite delicious.

Now I must dash and watch Eurovision - fingers crossed something as good as Lordi is amongst the usual tosh!!

But just quickly.....originally I was going to merge my blue cupcakes with Friday 13th cupcakes but we spent yesterday at the eye hospital so didn't get a chance to make them - however I did make my toppers out of white chocolate, coloured grey. Aren't they gruesome?

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Cupcakes Violet Beauregarde aka Blueberry cupcakes!

I tweeted that these were some of the most delicious cupcakes I've ever made, and I hand on heart was not lying.

I had originally bought blueberries to try my hand at some blue velvets as I keep seeing them and think they look really fun, and perfect for boys who like cupcakes. However, I kept thinking back to the amazing blueberry and lemon cupcake I had from Ottolenghi and decided to have a go a recreating it!

First I made a compote which is incredibly easy (this makes a lot you could probably half it - or use the leftovers with yogurt for breakfast?)

Blueberry compote
175g fresh blueberries
50g caster sugar (I used golden)

Cook over a gentle heat, stirring occasionally, until the blueberries begin to pop and then remove from heat and leave to cool.

Next the cupcakes. They are a plain vanilla cupcake, using my favourite 'go to' recipe - however I had no milk in the house so instead used organic natural yogurt and it worked a treat (I'll give the measurements for both below).

Anne's favourite vanilla cupcakes
125g golden caster sugar
125g unsalted butter (room temp)
125g self raising flour
1.5 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3 tablespoons milk (I substituted approx 2.5 tablespoons yogurt - until I got dropping consistency)

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees - I have a fan oven, and an oven thermometer (which I recommend everyone gets - the oven thermometer I mean).

Cream the butter, sugar and vanilla together with your mixer until light and fluffy. I do this for about 10mins to get a lot of air in.

Add the eggs, one by one and mix.

Mix in the flour and baking powder - I do this by hand as find the mixer knocks the air out of the flour and it makes a lighter cake. Than add the milk, or yogurt, and mix until all combined.

Scoop into cases using an ice cream scoop or a tablespoon. I get 10 large cupcakes out of this recipe - you can get 12 smaller ones though, it depends on your cases. In my oven these take just under 20 minutes. I find the house tends to smell of lovely baking and they're ready.  They are ready when you can stick a cake tester/cocktail stick in and it comes out clean.

Remove from oven and transfer immediately to a wire cooling rack.

Once cooled, use an apple corer to remove the centre of the cake and fill with a hearty amount of your cooled compote.

As you can see I didn't always hit the centre, but it's ok as you're going to cover them in lashings of delicious lemon frosting.

Best ever lemon frosting
100g cream cheese (full fat not light!)
40g unsalted butter, room temp
250g icing sugar (See note below)
lemon juice
lemon extract (I use Star Kay White)

Mix the butter and cream cheese for about 2 minutes in your mixer. Add icing sugar and then mix for about another 2 or 3 mins until smooth. Add lemon juice and some lemon essence to taste - I put in a few drops lemon juice and approx 1/2 a teaspoon to 1 teaspoon of lemon extract - tasting as I went. You want it to taste lemon'y and each persons taste buds are different.
Note: I added about two more tablespoons of icing sugar while adding the lemon extract as it thinned it out - you want it to be of piping consistency, ie not too runny!

Pipe onto the cupcakes and then plop a lovely blueberry on top and enjoy with a lovely cup of tea and decide whether they are the best cupcakes you have ever made. I think they're my favourites.

Finally, when making these I decided to test out some new Cath Kidston cupcake cases I got a while ago.

As you can see they were NOT worth the money. I'm a massive fan of Cath Kidston, I know it's a cliché to be a cupcake fan and love Cath but there you go, however these pretty much went translucent on baking. Not happy.

Friday, 6 May 2011

Real Food Festival cupcakes - must try harder

Yesterday myself and Manny headed over to the Real Food Fest at Earls Court. We tried three cupcake companies in all. There were about four or five people selling cupcakes but we couldn't face that many - especially as we wanted to try some other food as well. As it turned out we only actually ate one each -the others went in the bin.

First, the good.

Sweet Things are based in Primrose Hill and although they don't have a store you can order online or buy at their local market stall at weekends.

The lovely Japanese girl behind the counter recognised us from being in Camden a couple of weeks ago and was incredibly friendly. We opted to have a cupcake each as pudding to our fabulous Bhangra Burger we'd had for lunch.

There was a lovely choice of flavours and I went against my normal first cupcake at a new company (vanilla), and opted for a strawberry cheesecake cupcake.

The cake was incredibly fresh and moist, and the frosting was a lovely tart cream cheese frosting with a strawberry drizzle and biscuit topping. I loved it - and made quite a mess scoffing it.

Manny, no surprises here, opted for a double chocolate cake and was so overwhelmed by how good it was I had to post a pic of him on Twitter enjoying his cake!

Second up, the bad.

This is a chocolate cupcake from Cupcake-A-Licious, a Surrey based cupcake company. Firstly it looks a little squished as I refused to pay £1 for a box for a £2 cupcake to take it home, so we re-used the cupcake boxes from Sweet Things which I happened to still have in my bag. I get very perturbed about paying extra for a box -surely this should be worked into costs?

Anyhow, our cupcake was a Chocolate Delight - a delectable chocolate sponge accompanies by an oooh so irresistible chocolate butter icing according to their advertising material. According to me, and Manny it was a rather dry, flavourless cake, with a really unpleasant frosting. It tasted artificial somehow, and I'm pretty sure it wasn't butter in there, or chocolate. It tasted like Stork and cocoa powder. I resisted it and it went in the bin after a couple of bites.

Finally, the ugly.

Ok, ugly is a bit harsh but it's not exactly tempting is it? This is a white chocolate and raspberry cupcake from Monkey Poodle, a London based baking company. Again there was no box for the cake, we were offered a bag or a napkin so alas it got squished. It had previously looked like this.

According to their website, our cupcake was; One of our favourite combos, creamy white chocolate (chunks of) and fresh raspberries in vanilla sponge topped with swirls of buttercream icing.

When we divided up the cake to share there was an odd smell about the cake, and the frosting texture was wrong. I'm still convinced it was a Swiss meringue frosting, or an attempt at one, rather than buttercream as it tasted like a glob of sugary uncooked meringue. And it got no better after the frosting - the cake had an incredibly grainy texture and Manny bit into something unpleasant which was a chunk of not very nice white chocolate. It was devoid of any pleasant flavour, apart from the raspberry so, alas. another one for the Brabinta.

All in all a very disappointing day for cupcakes at the Real Food Fest.

A couple of points. If you're going to sell an easily damageable food item at a festival where people are coming to buy goods and take it home, offering boxes is really a good idea, or you end up with photos of your cupcakes looking kinda sad on peoples websites. Also trying to be polite could be a way forward. We tried to engage in conversation with one stall owner and asked her what her company had been named after, which led to a bit of a dramatic sigh and a "oh everyone asks that" ...well yes, perhaps people do but perhaps you could think of an interesting way to engage the customer with the story of why rather than sigh, especially when no-one else was buying your cakes! Another stall holder was busy reading and when we stopped to buy she kept reading and barely glanced up, so we didn't buy her cupcakes.  Finally, I noticed that people seem to be relying more and more on glitter and gimmicks like wearing 50s clothing to sell their cupcakes (hello there is only one Ms C!!), rather than ensuring their cakes taste good and use good ingredients, which is sad.

We also sampled a couple of other baked goods at the festival - an Oreo brownie from Outsider Tart and Manny had a millionaire shortbread from The Desert Deli. Both stalls could teach the others a great deal -they were friendly, chatting to customers, explaining about what they had to offer etc, and both items were delicious and flavoursome.

Oh and if you go, do try the buffalo milk ice cream at Laverstoke, say hello to the calves and lambs for me and don't miss the dancing sheep truck at the back! And the lovely English couple living in France brewing real ale are delightful! And if you try any cupcakes do let me know!

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Cinnamon Churro Cupcakes for Cinco de Mayo

Today is Cinco de Mayo, a day of celebration for Mexicans worldwide and I decided to celebrate with a churro cupcake.

Instead of just making a cupcake and shoving a churro on top, I decided to try and recreate the flavour of a churro in cupcake form.

I used my favourite vanilla recipe and substituted the usual caster sugar with a the cinnamon sugar I picked up in Waitrose. I also added some more fairtrade cinnamon to taste as I wanted it to be quite cinnamon'y.

I then topped them with some sugar frosting, inspired by something I read in my Who you Calling Cupcake book. Basically normal frosting with some sugar folded into it. I opted to use the cinnamon sugar again and it was actually quite nice but incredibly sweet.

Now as you know churros are only good when you dunk them into a load of chocolate (or if you're lucky and in Wahaca a tequilla chocolate shot - yum), so I drizzled them with some lovely Green and Blacks melted chocolate and behold..churro cupcakes.

So how were they? One word sums them up - sweet!! Two words is even better - too sweet. Manny really enjoyed the cake part, and it was nice and moist, but a little too sweet for me. Also while the sugar gave the frosting a good crunchy effect of biting into a churro, it was also a little too sweet, although this was offset by the bitterness of dark chocolate. Not a cupcake I'd make again, but it was worth an experiment and great if you have a sweet tooth - Manny ate two!  Next time I'll stick to a Mexican hot chocolate cupcake!

Feliz Cinco de Mayo!

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Bakery at County Hall

I posted this image on my Twitter feed yesterday and got quite a lot of questions asking me where I was. Isn't it lovely?

We chanced upon, Bakery County Hall, on our way to the South Bank food market yesterday and I'm so glad we spotted the macaron tower in the window which is what made us explore further. It is a charming, quite large, cafe/bakery housed at the back of County Hall, away from the river.

We took a peak inside and I saw all the pretty pink things, and packages of meringues tied up with ribbon hanging from the ceiling and I was sold - we had to go inside.

There were even little jars of cupcakes dotted around. So cute!

The place itself is quite large with a lot of seating -when we arrived there was one other group there, but it quickly filled out as passers by spotted it! There is a kitchen at one end, where people were baking away happily, and there was a good variety of sweet and savoury food. We of course opted for sweet. There were two cupcake flavours available, chocolate with vanilla frosting and raspberry. I opted for raspberry and Manny opted for a slice of a cake called Chocolate Delight. I'd have been surprised after seeing it if he hadn't.

As you can see my cupcake had a LOT of frosting. Manny was rather taken with the cake to frosting ratio, and I was trying to get a picture of the cross section once I'd taken a bite, well a forkful, even my mouth isn't that big, but it was so top heavy it kept falling over! I'm happy to say it tasted fabulous! It was fresh, and although the cake was a little dry I think it was due to perhaps over-mixing rather than staleness as it tasted lovely. The frosting had a lovely raspberry flavour and was delicious. I started picking off the pearls as I thought they were those hard balls that are every dentists delight, but they were in fact little chocolate shells.

Manny's cake was, again, delicious and aptly named. It was a delightfully sinful chocolate cake, fresh and very chocolaty. And as you can see the friendly waitress didn't skimp when it came to portioning it up either.

And it wasn't just us enjoying the Bakery offerings - when Manny went the loo, a female traffic warden sitting at the other side of the cafe started talking to him about how great his scones were, slightly confusing the poor boy. It turns out she'd loved the food there and wanted to congratulate him - not sure why a scruffy chap in a Cocksparrer tshirt looked liked he worked there...bless.

I only have one negative comment about the Bakery - the pricing was quite steep. Two cakes and a small cappuccino and a small mug of peppermint tea came in at just under £15 - slightly expensive but the coffee was nice, as was the cake, and you are in a predominantly tourist area. But something to bear in mind.

I will definitely visit again. The cafe was a lovely little oasis of cuteness and calm away from the crowds in the area, definitely somewhere you could while away some of the day with a good book and a bit of cake.

Next time I go I'll try and get some  better photos of the meringues - although it was very light inside the photographs of the windows came out very dark!