Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Sticky toffee pudding with custard

Sticky toffee pudding and custard - don't those words just make you drool? Surely it can't just be me?

Last week was cold, wet and miserable. The fun and frivolity of Christmas/Hogmanay seems a long way away and January seems to take forever to be over, and is always a little grim. What I needed was some comfort food. A hug in cupcake form.

I have made sticky toffee cupcakes with caramel frosting before so the cake was a doddle for me. I really love this recipe. I could make it over and over, and eat it again and again. Till I popped.

The cake once again came out sticky and date'y and just scrumptious. There is no other word for it - scrumptious sums it up fully.

I used the Love Bakery custard frosting recipe I had previously topped my rhubarb and custard cupcakes with.  I added the specified amount of custard and it just didn't taste custardy enough, so I added more. And some more vanilla as I like my custard to be full of vanilla goodness. Alas I added a smidgen too much custard and the frosting was a little wetter than I'd have liked - it tasted fabulous but didn't pipe so well.

The cakes kept well for 3 days, the flavour maturing in the cupcake over time and the base remained moist until they were all gone.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

10 out of 10 for 40point5

Last Saturday after visiting the beautiful Peggy Porschen's Parlour we walked through Hyde Park to Kensington High Street to get to the second destination of the day – 40point5.

I first read about 40point5 in Daily Candy a couple of weeks ago and was immediately won over by their patisserie section on their website.

The shop is attached to a small cafĂ© next door, which unfortunately was v.popular and therefore v.busy so we got our goodies to take away. The lady in the store was lovely – telling us about the chocolates and letting us choose a free sample to try. The chocolate was divine and I highly recommend it to anyone who likes good chocolate. They also had a range of chocolate gifts, such as shoes, guitars and really nice chocolate skulls.

There were two cupcakes on offer – a spiced plum and a tiramisu. I opted for the tiramisu, hoping as this was a cupcake tasting session Manny would opt for the spiced plum. He didn’t. For him it was lust at first sight with a chocolate torte and there was no way anything else was going to tempt him from this Chocolate Nemesis 

I have to admit being slightly disappointed that the devils food cupcake hadn’t been available – until I tried the tiramisu. It was delicious. The cake was incredibly tasty and full of boozy goodness as well. And the topping was light and melted in my mouth.

My only criticism is the cakes were kept cooled so they may not be so good if you ate them straight away – however ours had the trip home and the time it took to boil the kettle to get to room temp.

I shall definitely pop by again when I’m in the area to see if they have more cupcakes, and to buy chocolate gifts!

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Peggy Porschen's Parlour

Isn't it the most gorgeous cake shop you've ever seen? That shade of pink is enough to turn me into the girliest girl ever. I adore it.

Peggy Porschen's Parlour opened in Belgravia last autumn and today we finally got round to visiting. The location is rather odd - walk past perhaps the grimmest place in London, Victoria Coach Station, and you can see this gorgeous vision of pastel pink on the horizon. Like an oasis calling to you in the desert of scummyness.

As were were stomping towards it I had everything crossed we could get a seat inside, as although there were a couple of outdoor tables, it was freezing.

Inside the Parlour is small but perfectly formed. There are two smaller tables for two, and a larger one for about 5 or 6. Photography of the store wasn't allowed, but we could take photos of our gorgeous cakes. There was a choice of approximately 6 cupcakes, some layer cakes, macarons and some other baked goods. Of course we opted for cupcakes. I had a vanilla chiffon and Manny went for a chocolate heaven.

They also offer a selection of house blend teas, including a lovely sounding gingerbread one, but I was tempted by the lovely smelling coffee, and opted for a cappuccino. Manny had a divine smelling hot chocolate.

The vanilla cupcake was lush! The frosting was cream cheese vanilla which is quite unusual but it was absolutely delicious. The cake was moist and tasty, and incredibly fresh, the frosting was, well the icing on the cake. Really well flavoured and really moreish.

Manny's eyes lit up when he spotted the chocolate heaven cupcake. Look at the amount of frosting on there! Wow. And it was incredible. Seriously, delicious! I tried some, and the frosting was a velvety ganache and absolutely delicious. If ever there was a frosting I could have in shot form, this is it! The cake was, again, incredibly moist (I hate to harp on about moist cakes but a moist, fresh cupcake is so important - there are a couple of well known bakers out there I've sampled recently that could do with some lessons in injecting flavour into their cupcakes and about them  being fresh but that's a whole other blog post!). There were no such worries here, the cakes were simply magnificent.

As you can see we thoroughly enjoyed them, one of us ensuring we scraped off every last crumb of cake!

I had a little peruse around the shop before paying. As well as cakes and delicious iced cookies, there are Peggy Porschen homewares,  lovely home made preserves (including lemon and lemoncello, which I may have to return to buy), and Peggy's blends of teas. We decided we couldn't leave without trying one of her beautiful black forest cupcakes so got one to go, which was lovingly boxed up by the staff. Oh and the staff in the Parlour were really nice - checking we enjoyed everything and ensuring we didn't have any complaints.

Alas disaster struck as we had a long walk through a very windy Hyde Park after our scoffing, and the cake alas was a casualty of the elements.

Even though it was slightly squished, and way less pretty than when it had left the Parlour it still tasted lovely.  The rich, delicious chocolate cake cake is filled with some Griottine cherries inside and topped with a kirsch and vanilla frosting. I wished I'd bought two as I had to share it with Manny. Hurumpf.

I highly recommend popping along to Peggy's Parlour for tea and cupcakes. They also do afternoon tea and obviously takeaway. The cupcakes would make perfect little gifts for friends, if you don't want to make your own, and although slightly more than you would pay in other cupcake stores in London, they are worth every penny! I must go back to try the banana toffee asap! And a carrot one! Or I could dig out my copy of the Sainsbury's Magazine with her recipes in and make my own. That's next weekends baking taken care of!

Finally, you can see some photographs of inside the parlour here.

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Viva! The Elvis

Yesterday would've been Elvis Presley's 76th birthday and I decided what better time for me to conquer my fear of baking with bacon and make The Elvis.

The Elvis cupcake is based on a sandwich which was a favourite of his, the peanut butter, banana and bacon.

It's a pretty simple cupcake to make; a moist banana cupcake base, covered in lots of crunchy peanut butter frosting, with a chunk of streaky bacon to decorate. When I went to Ginger Pig to buy a couple of rashers of streaky they were suspicious of me till I told them it was to decorate cupcakes.

The base recipe if from the Love Bakery cookbook, and while it's very nice it makes rather massive cupcakes. Mine overflowed slightly leading to a bit of an uneven topping to frost onto. The frosting is some vanilla frosting with peanut butter added to taste - quite a lot of peanut butter. It was rather thick and the first attempt at frosting was a disaster, so I had to thin it out slightly with some milk. It still wouldn't go through my favourite nozzle, the 1M, so I had to use the biggest one I have which I'm not so keen on and it didn't make a pretty topping, so in the end, after contemplating, What Would Elvis Do?, we decided just to slap it on, or if you prefer, rustically apply the frosting to the cupcake Elvis style! Not the prettiest cupcakes, but how did they taste?

I let Manny taste the first one, incase it was as disgusting as my previous taste of bacon cupcakes at Batch in New York, and I have to agree with his verdict, bacon goes much better with peanut butter than it does with chocolate. I actually managed to swallow, something I didn't with the bacon/chocolate combo. While it tasted okay I don't really think it added much to the cupcake and ate the rest without bacon, Manny however scoffed two, with extra bacon. Oink.

If you want to make some other Elvis inspired recipes check out Fit for a King, The Elvis Presley Cookbook.

Saturday, 8 January 2011

Red Velvet Cupcakes - with the best frosting ever!

The notion of a foodie fills me with contempt and horror. But I like greedy people. I think if I was with someone who wasn't greedy that would be a bad sign." Greedy for what? "Everything. Anything. Greedy people generally have an energy and interest in life

As soon as I read about Maison Cupcake's Forever Nigella challenge I had an idea of what I was going to make - Nigella's take on perhaps the prettiest cupcake of all time - the red velvet, from her most recent, and wonderful, book Kitchen: Recipes from the Heart of the Home. The theme was seasonal which I interpreted to be comfort food, and what is more comforting than a delicious cupcake and a lovely cuppa?

Nigella's red velvet cupcake contains nothing unusual for those of you who've made red velvet before - just the usual cakey stuff, with some vinegar, buttermilk and LASHINGS of red food colour thrown in. Now, I didn't have a chance to get to Party, Party in Dalston before the episode of Nigella's Kitchen, featuring these cupcakes, aired, just before Christmas, so by the time I got there London's baking community had gone
Christmas Red food colour mad so I couldn't get her shade of choice. Instead I made do with fuschia and as you can see the cakes still came out a beautiful colour of red.

Alas, it was not only the cakes that came out red. I accidentally spilt a teeny tiny splodge of food colouring when opening a new tub, onto the kitchen floor, without noticing, then of course proceeded to walk it through the house. I've spent two days finding splodges of food colour in unusual areas of the house! This is not something I'd imagine Nigella would do! Thankfully the cats somehow avoided walking through it! Something else I can't see Nigella doing is nearly answering the door to the Ocado delivery man in pyjama bottoms covered in so much food dye she resembles John Hurt character in Alien after the 'birth' scene.

So if you're like me and a little bit messy, and blonde, then these cupcakes are messy little buggers to make BUT they are so delicious you forget about the mess as soon as you sink your teeth into one!

I've only made red velvet cupcakes once before, and while they were ok I was never fussed to make them again - however these cupcakes will be made over and over - they were divine! As good, if not better (dare I say it!) than any I've had from some of London's more well known cupcakeries. The base was incredibly moist - we ate the last two cupcakes today, (two days after baking), and they were still moist and full of flavour. But, what really made these cupcakes delicious was the frosting. I'm often not a fan of cream cheese frosting, finding it a bit claggy on the palate but this one was perfect. Nigella calls for some lemon juice or cider vinegar to be added to the frosting, I opted for lemon juice as vinegar sounded yuk, and it really made a difference and made the frosting the kind of melt in your mouth cream cheese frosting I've been striving to make for some time. This will definitely be my 'go to' cream cheese recipe from now on.

It wasn't just me and Manny who enjoyed them - I took some to work and was told by one colleague that they were "the lick" which I'm led to believe means good! They were certainly snaffled quick sharp! I was also encouraged to leave my job and take up baking instead. If only!

And, I don't mean to blow my own trumpet but I have to say I think my cupcakes look better than the domestic goddesses - Nigella seems to just slop on her frosting. Tut tut. Less time stroking fruit suggestively and thrusting your chest at the camera young lady, and more time practising those piping skills. Just imagine the double entendres you could smoulder at the camera while wielding an oozing frosting bag?

Finally, Ms Lawson can spout on about liking greedy people all she wants but she is slightly mean with her cupcake sizes. This recipe was meant to make 24 (I knew it wouldn’t from the quantities) but I got 12 – it could’ve perhaps stretched to 13 as one was a whopper! Mind you who am I to quibble over size when they taste so luscious.

And in a non-cupcake departure I also made the Thai Chicken Noodle Soup from Kitchen and it was so delicious I couldn't wait to scoff it before I got a decent picture. Sorry!

Oh, I forgot, originally I'd said I was going to do something different with the red velvet cupcakes - my original plan had been to top them with pomegranate as for some reason I always think of them when I think of Nigella (her going on about them being jewels gets my goat for some reason) but they were so beautiful and pure looking I couldn't bring myself do sully them!