Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Chocolate Cupcakes

After a busy weekend, baking 4 different flavoured loaves for a charity event for the benefit of the 1 Rifles Battalion. All the money raised goes into their private fund to help rehabilitate injured soldiers and also support those families of the fallen heroes too. For the event and also my older brother's graduation, we had to travel to Bristol on Friday until Saturday evening so I wasn't up for much baking on Sunday. As it happened I didn't have all the ingredients needed to make the cupcakes so had to delay them for another day so I could pop to the shops.

After recuperating and the trip to the shops I started on my cheeky recipe. This is one I had made dozens of times over the years since the first Hummingbird bakery cook book came out, but since it is in the second cook book I have to make it as part of the challenge and gives my a bit of a rest making something so simple. Not going to be a long entry because of this and other reason, as you will read soon.

I made up the chocolate cupcake batter mix, all went smoothly and it tasted amazing, forgot how yummy just plain uncomplicated cupcakes were, and I couldn't resist 'testing' the mixture a few times to make sure it was okay, as any good cook knows to do.

Having mixed everything well I spooned it into the cases. Had 16 cases ready and got almost 1 and a half tablespoons of batter into each. This seemed like a good amount and they were popped into the oven for 19 minutes initially. When I got them out to check when the timer went off, I realised things hadn't quite gone to plan...there was too much batter in each case and they had overflowed over the top of the casing and tray and were literally all joined together. They also hadn't cooked properly and ended up going back into the oven for about 9 minutes more. I did have a little laugh at how badly they had turned out, especially with a recipe I have made numerous times and is so simple.

My plan was to try and trim the excess sponge off and then ice them. Unfortunately they were all joined together and as I tried to disengage them from each other they just torn off away from the tin, leaving majority behind and also caused the sides of the cupcake to peel off the casings too. They were an absolute mess and there was no chance they could be salvaged let alone iced so I am just going to admit defeat and say this attempt was a complete failure. Trust me, you will agree when you see the picture. Time to move on and focus on the next baking days..no point crying over ruined cupcakes! And it didn't stop me eating them any way, good cake is good cake regardless of its looks!

Monday, 18 July 2011

Red Velvet Whoopie Pies

Red velvet are my favourite favourite favourite cupcakes. When I bought the first cook book, it was the first thing I tried to make, having been really intrigued about the red colouring. They fast became my go to for any occasion or rainy afternoon of baking and I only ended up making an handful of other recipes from that cook book. This is what spurred me into this challenge of making everything in the new book. I wanted to try new things, like when I first made the red velvet cupcakes and possibly find some new favourites too.

Having discovered whoopie pies from the Cake Days book, it felt right to finally make the Red Velvet variety. Some of you might not know but a tragedy has occurred in the baking world..the Red food colouring made by Dr Oetker that is used the give these cupcakes their brilliant vivid colour has been discontinued! Still unsure what other substitutes there are that can give the same result, as most turn the sponge either pink or brown. Luckily, due to my obsession with the cupcakes over the last few years, I always had the red colouring in my store cupboard and so have enough to make a few batches up of whoopies or cupcakes.

It was a little weird making up this batter mixture as I am used to the measurements for the cupcakes and for these you used soft dark brown sugar which I thought was a little odd and was worried as I was mixing it all together that it might affect the colour of the sponge. Wasn't a problem though, I forgot how bright it actually is in the end. Made up the batter and into the fridge for half hour to set a little. Once done it was time to line the trays with greaseproof paper and spoon out the batter into the whoopie halves. I love the taste and unique shape of whoopie pies but have no realised I hate actually making them. The batter is a sort of dough like texture and is sticky so difficult to get onto the tray and into the right shape easily. It takes me so long to try and get them all the same size and the lining always slips around whilst I'm doing it to, just to make it extra difficult.

Having battled with that for a while, I finally had 18 mounds ready to go into the oven. This made 9 pies in total and I thought I had got them to a medium sort of size, especially since I made the right amount of pies this time too but when they came out of the oven they were massive. I had to just slide a knife around a few to separate them a little from each other. Again I probably could have made a few more smaller sized pies out of this mixture but there was just not enough oven space or baking trays for this. Not sure why the last batch, the Vanilla and Cardamom ones, came out perfectly sized. Either way it just means more for your money on each bite!

The filling for these whoopies again differs from the usual recipes as it is mainly icing sugar and not marshmallow fluff. Has just under half the usual amount of fluff and uses cream cheese and the butter to make up the rest with the sugar. Found that due to the lesser amount of fluff in the mixture, it didn't climb up the whisk attachments and took less time to mix too. It still had to go into the fridge to harden a little before sandwiching the mounds together. Made up the full quantity of filling and had a generous amount in each pie. They looked mouth watering, if a little big and I couldn't wait to try one out and see how the compare to the cupcakes.

Settled the little one down for a nap and then switched the kettle on and grabbed a plate and fork for my tasting. They are exactly like the cupcakes, just with a different texture and the filling isn't as strong a cheese taste as the cake toppings. Totally divine though, but I think I will stick to the cupcakes as easier and quicker to make..whoopie pies are just tricky. Need to now find a replacement for the red food colouring that gives just as good results as the Dr Oetker stuff. Can anyone help with this to save me going on a baking quest?

Mojito Mini Cupcakes

With only four recipes for mini cupcakes in the cook book, I have been holding off of making one for a while. They are also all alcoholic cupcakes, mainly cocktail flavours and I am not a big fan (I seem to be saying that a lot at the moment) Went for the mojito ones first as this was one of my friend's favourites so seemed like as good a place as ever to start.

Whacking the oven on to pre-heat I set about in chopping the fresh mint and grating the lemon and lime zest that is added to the usual sponge batter. Then made up the rum mixtures on the hob. It is literally just white rum and caster sugar reduced down to half. I made this up, then set it aside as the recipe states, and made up the sponge part.

It wasn't until reading down the page that I realised the reduced rum doesn't get added to the batter but is spooned on top as soon as the cupcakes have come out of the oven, rather like a soaking syrup. Luck I read that when I did as I almost added it to the milk mixture by mistake. Even though I avoided that mishap, When I looked back into the saucepan, I realised the mixture was not liquid any more but has set. I tried to warm it back over the hob but it didn't work and so into the bin it went. Another batch went on whilst the sponge mixture was spooned into the teeny tiny cases. After telling Hubby about the first disaster we came up with the idea to let the mixture stay on the warm hob, with the heat off, to try and stop it from solidifying.

Cupcakes into the oven and set about wiping down the kitchen when thought I could smell something odd. A glance across the kitchen revealed that the second batch of reduced rum had also failed. Leaving it on the off but still warm hob meant that it stayed as a liquid but it also get brown and burnt. Took me a little while to get it off the bottle of the pan as set quickly once taken away from the heat. After this nightmare and questioning as to why it wasn't turning out right when the cook book says to make it up first, before anything else, I held off on making another lot up until the cakes had finished baking.

Waiting for the timer to go off, pondering the rum dilemma and reading the rest of the recipe through, a thought hit me..I am leaving the rum and sugar to boil too long and it is becoming a syrup which the cook book doesn't say anything about, just to let it reduce by half. Once the cupcakes had come out of the oven I put the third, and hopefully, final batch on and took it off once the liquid had started to reduce but wasn't thickening. This seemed to be the trick and it came out perfectly and was dribbled over the cupcake tops whilst they cooled.

The icing is the usual suspects of sugar and butter but with lemon and lime zest added into this mixture and then a small amount of rum added into an equal amount of milk. Whisk all this together and swirl onto the cupcakes, then I decorated with the suggested caster sugar and fresh chopped mint. They looked fab, not quite exactly like the photo as I only made 24 and they mushroomed over the top of the tin and cases a little so another tin is in order, think could have gotten a couple more out of that mix.

Packed 6 up and took them over to the friend who was eagerly awaiting our arrival. They dove in immediately and said they were fab. It took until 2 days later for me to actually taste one and they were yummy. The sponge with the lemon, lime and mint inside it was amazing and the top/icing wasn't as strong a taste with the rum as I was expecting but it does have an after taste of cocktail. I think there was a little bit too much caster sugar sprinkled on the top as this was the overwhelming flavour I got from the first bite. Even so, they are lovely and being so small you could easily eat quite a few..as to whether they taste like a mojito, the jury is out on that verdict, having never actually drunk a mojito in my life so far.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Raspberry Trifle Cupcakes

I wanted to make some cupcakes and show off a little with my visitors staying with me so I decided to make a third recipe. Went for the raspberry trifle as thought it would appeal to my family members and was also one of the more trickier ones, with the middle being cut out and this time filled with a fresh whole raspberry, jam and custard!

We had no plans for Monday so basically just chilled out and baked all day. We were going to take a trip to Bluewater but unfortunately my Nan took a little tumble on a kerb whilst we were in town the day before and needed to rest up. None of us were really fussed about going, was just something to do really and by then I had come down with yet another cold so a day at home was much needed.

Made the sponge up early in the morning so it had a chance to cool down completely before they could be filled. Did a bit of cleaning and dossing around before making the custard. It came out a little lumpy this time, no matter how much I whisked and tried to beat it into submission it just wasn't working. Even so once the whipped double cream had been added the texture and taste was still good.

The long bit came in cutting out the cupcakes and filling them. Having looked at the size of the fresh raspberries it seemed like the cut-outs would need to be almost all the way through the cupcake. The cook book says to add the raspberries first, then the jam and then custard on top before trimming and replacing the sponge. I started off doing it this way but the jam and custard didn't run down the raspberry and fill the remaining void. After filling about half of the cupcakes this way I decided to try adding the jam in first and sort of squashing the raspberry into it before covering with custard. This worked out much better than the stated method and the other cupcakes were filled in a flash. Covered them with a big dollop of custard cream and topped with a fresh raspberry and they were done.

I only managed to take a photo with 15 out of the 16 cupcakes as I, willingly, gave the first one to my sister to try, forgetting that the photo needed to be done first. She was a little unsure on the custard cream topping as has only tried cupcakes with the usual buttercream frosting on them but once I explained what it actually was and it wasn't meant to be sweet and sugary like that she agreed they were lovely, albeit a little messy.

Mum, Nan, Hubby and myself tried one later in the day, again with the standard cup of coffee/tea. Having tried the Banoffee cupcakes with the caramel custard on top I knew what to expect and the raspberry jam in the middle added a lovely sweetness to the cupcake ensemble. Not as nice as the Banoffee (and I don't like bananas) I thought but everyone else loved them. After my family had eaten a few more and they had been delivered to my neighbours and friends, my husband took the remaining cupcakes to work. Came home and said they went down a treat at the building site, although only half have been eaten so far as the rest of the guys are on a diet!

Butterscotch Pecan Cheesecake

The second recipe to be made over this weekend was the Butterscotch Pecan Cheesecake, as picked by my Mother. She loves her pecans, as you can read from the Chocolate Chunk Pecan Pie, which I made when I was last down in Cornwall visiting them. Haven't made a cheesecake since June and still have four left after this one and was looking forward to tasting the butterscotch glaze, not eaten butterscotch since my school days.

Took all of Sunday to make this cheesecake, did it in stages throughout the day around our other plans. Made the digestive base first and the butter to biscuit ratio seemed fine in this recipe. Strange that it works perfectly for the cheesecakes but for the pie bases it is too sloppy. I only used greaseproof paper on the bottom of the tin, it worked so well the last time to give a smoother edge. Smoothed the base out and off it went to relax and chill out in the fridge.

Started work on the cheesecake filling. The majority of this is actually just Philadelphia cream cheese. My Mum and Nan were a little shocked at the amount used in one cheesecake and how small the other ingredient quantities are. It took me a little while to get the topping going. Usually once I start baking I am in the zone and focused. Not quite this time, I managed to measure out the cream cheese and sugar before got distracted and danced away to the Glee Thriller/Off with their heads remix and Beyonce's Single Ladies to make my baby girl laugh. Managed to get back to the mixing eventually and added the eggs and then blitzed the pecans in my amazing mini-blender that I love and then stirred them by hand and poured it all into the biscuit base to go into the oven.

Once it came out and was cooling, we all went out into town to do a little shopping. A couple of hours off baking and then straight back to it to make the butterscotch topping. It is mainly sugar, using two different types, the soft light brown and the icing varieties. It is mixed over a hob with butter, milk and a little vanilla essence until it thickens and is whisked into a glaze. It doesn't get set aside to cool, but rather is spread onto the chilled cheesecake straight away and then goes back into the fridge to chill for a few hours again. I usually leave mine overnight but everyone was eager to try some, especially as we were going out for a meal that evening and this was meant to be dessert.

We had a lovely meal at a sort of local pub, made it home not too late and but a very tired little girlie to bed. We then had a cuppa and cut into our cheesecake. It was scrummy. The pecans were chopped up very finely and so there weren't any big chunks in the filling so added nicely to the overall flavour without being too nutty. Everyone knows by now that I am not a nut enthusiast but Hummingbird is starting to change my mind about them in baking.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Apple Streusel Cake

This last weekend was a very special one. My Mum, Nan and Sister drove up together from Cornwall to spend a long weekend with us. Due to the occasion I let them pick the recipes to be made for this week's blog.

My sister went first and chose this recipe, the Apple Streusel cake. It was not something that would usually catch my eye and I admit now that I didn't think it would tickle my taste buds either.

Whipped this creation up in an hour as it had to be ready to take over to the in-laws, that were holding a bbq to catch-up with my family. Started off greasing up the tin and then made up the streusel topping. The first stage is to rub the chilled butter together with the cinnamon and flour using your hands. This took me ages to do, to get it to the breadcrumb texture needed. Stirred in the sugar and pushed it aside whilst the rest of the cake is made.

Once this is done you make up the sponge mixture and pour this into the prepared tin. The sponge is just vanilla flavoured and the apples are sliced and laid out on top of the batter uncooked. The streusel crumbs are sprinkled on top of everything and it all goes into the oven at once for 45 minutes.

It came out just in time to cool enough to handle so I could take it over for the bbq. It smelt lovely and the crumble topping had browned nicely too. The tin was still a little too warm to carry but we had no time to wait as we were already running late so I bundled it up into the car.

The welcome the cake and ourselves received was worth it. We had a wonderful time, even though the party had to be moved inside due to the rain. Almost everybody who attended tried a piece of cake after the meal. Some had it with cream but I tried it without anything first, as wanted to get a proper taste of my creation and have found that the Hummingbird recipes don't need anything added to them, they are always moist and flavoured perfectly. After being adamant it wasn't my sort of cake, it was delicious. We were worried the sponge part of the cake wouldn't be thick enough as I only have a 9 inch spring tin, not the 8 inch that the cook book says to use. The sponge wasn't very deep but it was enough with the apples and streusel on top. I think if it had been baked in an inch smaller tin it would have been too much sponge. The cooked apple and streusel topping were sweet and balanced well with the vanilla sponge. Would make this as a Sunday Roast dessert, think it would go well with custard too. Lovely overall and a cake for all seasons too, I might try it slightly warm with custard next time.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Cola Cupcakes

The turn of the Cola cupcakes this Sunday. These were picked by my pregnant Sister-in-law as she loved the fizzy Orange cupcakes I made earlier in the year. Was also keen on trying the Lemonade variety but I didn't have the syrup in stock for that, the mixed box I bought didn't include it. Does have cherry and Dandelion and Burdock so might see how they do as my own twist on unusual cupcake flavours. Although there could be a reason why they aren't included in the cook book..we will see.

Any way, back to the topic at hand. Making the sponge went without a hitch. What I like about these sort of cupcakes is the fact that the basis of the cake is the standard to all the cupcake recipes, I think I know the ingredient measurements off by heart almost, having made so many cupcakes now. The soda stream syrup flavouring is added into the milk which gets poured into the dry ingredients in two batches. All fine and I got a lovely smooth texture to it. Made the usual 16 cakes out of this mixture. Sometimes I think I might be able to get one or two more, as even though I try to make sure there is an even amount of batter in each case, some of them overspill the side a little and end up wonky and stuck to the cake tray. I just trim that bit off back to the casing and cover it in icing though, so no-one is the wiser.

Onto the icing and I made sure to half the quantity for this recipe. I haven't made any cupcakes in the last few weeks that have been covered with the usual buttercream frosting and so have made up the full quantity of icing just in case. These ones I know it makes too much. Was surprised that the amount of cola syrup that goes into the icing is as the amount put into the sponge mixture when halving it. It should have been 1 tablespoon for sponge and then, if you made up the stated amount of icing, 2 tablespoons for the frosting. I know the icing is always the strongest flavour when making something that uses the same ingredient in both but I think the cola might have been too sickly otherwise. The way I worked it out seemed to be just right, I had a lick or two from the bowl just to double check.

Onto the cupcakes the icing went, about 1 and a half tablespoons per cake and once smoothed out I decorated with Haribo cola bottles. Started out adding two to each cupcake, as the cook book picture shows but half way through I realised I wouldn't actually have enough to finish that. In the end I did 8 cupcakes with two cola bottles and 8 with only one. This worked out perfectly as it also used up all the Haribo packet too.

Photo taken and then some of the cupcakes departed from us to my friend's and neighbours. I always give away a few to others to try. Making two recipes a week/weekend means there is plenty of cake around for myself to fill up on and if I didn't offer some to others I would 1) become very fat and 2) they would go to waste and get thrown away..and no cake deserves that.

The cupcakes were finished on Sunday afternoon but I didn't actually try one myself until Tuesday morning. Been a little busy baking other goodies for hubby and an order and I was also polishing off the last of the Chocolate Fondant cupcakes too. They are so indulgent and needed to be eaten up since they were made on Thursday. Back to the Cola ones though. The flavour surprised me, it does indeed taste like cola and its odd to have that flavour in your mouth when chewing and now in a liquid. The icing wasn't too sickly as it might have been if the full amount of syrup recommended was in there and it went well with the subtle sponge flavour. These cupcakes, along with the Lemonade and Fizzy Orange ones, would be great for a Kid's party I reckon. Might try and see what other Soda stream flavoured ones I can knock up on my own too

Saturday, 2 July 2011

Chocolate Fondant Cupcakes

These must be a chocoholic's dream. The picture itself in this book is enough to make my mouth water and I could not wait to dive into making these particular cupcakes.

Start off with the usual sponge ingredients for a chocolate cupcake. It actually started off as a disaster! As I was just about to pour the caster sugar a the first of the dry ingredients I noticed it had little mites in it. I figured they must have been flour mites so checked the flour packet and sure enough there were more. So almost a full bag of sugar and flour had to be thrown away. As I open my pull out corner unit cupboard to get a fresh bag I noticed one walking around on the shelf. /this resulted in me pulling everything out of the cupboard and checking all the other different varieties of sugar and flour I had. The mites were in all the open packets, so out went another basically full bag of icing sugar along with some expired items that had been forgotten at the back. The only thing they didn't attack was the Cornflour. Miffed as to why, only thing I noticed was that it was in a plastic inner bag rather than the usual paper kind. Scrubbed the shelf down and put everything back in then set about my measuring again. Lucky I make sure I always have at least two bags of each sugar and flour in the store at all time. I then had a problem with my scales turning off just as I started to sieve the flour into the sugar and as a result had to start that over again too. What a mission!

Drama over and everything else went well with the sponge mixture. Popped that into the oven for 20 minutes and then out on the side to cool for a few hours so they were cold enough to cut, fill and frost later in the evening.

The filling and topping it literally a sugar coma waiting to happen. Its just double cream warmed and then poured over chopped dark chocolate until that has melted and its mixed together well. It then needs to be covered with clingfilm to prevent a skin forming and left to chill on the side. I didn't quite have the while 400g needed for the chocolate but was just under so didn't see it as a problem.

Whilst this was chilling I was running around maniacally, sorting my daughter's bath, bottle and bed. Then grabbing 5 mins to eat my dinner before a friend arrived. She smelt the cupcakes and frosting as soon as she arrived and so was only too happy to wait whilst I filled and iced the cupcakes, eager to try the first finished one. I cut the middle and filled each cake as I went, one at a time. The chocolate cream was a good consistency to go into the hollow middle of the cupcake but when it came to frosting the top it didn't work out too well. It was too runny, basically just like melted chocolate and was running off the sides of the sponge and all down the cases. I was at a loss as to why this was as expected it to be firmer, judging by the picture in the cook book. After brainstorming we decided to pop the filling into the fridge to try and get it to set a little bit more. Just enough to cover the top without making a huge mess.

Off to dye some hair whilst we waited for the fridge to do its magic. Twenty minutes later and it seemed to have done the trick so I sent about dolloping the cream onto the sponge although I couldn't get it to swirl. Even so it looked nice, glossier than the photo, not sure if maybe the slightly smaller amount of dark chocolate than stated made a difference but I was pleased with the results. They can't all look the same as the cook book and its the taste that matters in the end.

I didn't actually get to have a cupcake with a cuppa for my elevens as too busy the next day so it wasn't until Friday evening that one first passed my lips (and went straight to the hips!) They were amazing, I almost melted. The frosting is a strong taste, but then you would expect it from what its made of. It worked well inside the sponge as didn't set as much due to the lack of air contact and was a nice addition. I like these cakes, was a little reluctant to give them away to others to taste but I am nothing but generous with my baking skills, modest too. Although I am an open chocoholic I don't think I could eat too many of these in a day. They are a special occasion cupcakes, too rich for every day consumption. Saying that, I might hear another one calling me this evening....