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Perfecting cupcakes – it’s all in the nozzle!

Over the last few weeks I’ve made many a cupcake.  I love making them (and eating them!).

My daughter’s birthday ones were a fail in regards to the swirls, as the weather was too hot and the butter cream too runny.  As I use dairy free margarine it just doesn’t work as well as full blown butter sometimes! And I didn’t have the correct nozzle   I still believe it’s just as tasty though.  Luckily I rescued the cupcakes with some pretty butterfly, flower and edible crystal decorations.  The rescue must have been good because one of my (male – therefore won’t lie to save my feelings!) friends thought we’d bought them from a shop.  Ultimate praise I thought 🙂  Here they are:

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Next it was the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee so I decided to make some blue coloured cupcakes.  This time, my friend at Canterbury Cakes had advised me to buy a Wilton 1M nozzle for the optimum swirl, so I was all set!  Now, I wanted a real ‘royal’ blue as it was for the jubilee BBQ we were having – I’m guessing it’s given that name for a reason.  However, I couldn’t get my blue colouring to get anywhere near a dark blue, so I was left with some very lovely looking turquoise cupcakes!!

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They tasted lovely and the children at the BBQ all had turquoise faces by the end!  I hope you’ll agree the swirls worked really well this time – how I love the Wilton 1M nozzle 🙂

I made some gluten and dairy free chocolate cupcakes to take to my team meeting for work as one of my colleagues has a strict diet – however I could not make the meeting in the end so took them to a Pampered Chef event instead.  They were very well received and no one could tell they were free of so many things!

My husband was keen to take some cakes into work this week for his colleagues, so I also made chocolate cupcakes for him – just dairy free this time.  He took them in today and there are only 2 left (out of 18) for a friend who was off today and another one for himself tomorrow!  Cheeky!  The recipe for these was the Hummingbird recipe from a previous post: Party Cupcakes.  It’s a very dense cupcake with lovely smooth butter icing.  And of course my new best friend Mr Wilton 1M was close at hand!

I’m going on another cake decorating course in July to learn other cupcake swirl techniques at Sweetie Darling near Canterbury.  I wish I could afford to do every course there!

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Cake making 2012 challenge continues…

Juggling cake baking and looking after a toddler has left me with very little time to blog lately, so I’m sorry for my disappearing act!  However, I now hope to update you on what creations I’ve been working on … during my lunch break at work!

My 2012 challenge of making cakes for every family member/friend’s birthday or special occasion has kept me busy these past few weeks.

First, it was my husband’s cousin’s birthday (who is also a good friend) so I wanted to try out the skills I learnt at the course (see last post) as well as preparation for my daughter’s 2nd birthday cake.  So, I baked my first ball-shaped cake in a pyrex 1 litre glass bowl.  It felt very strange not using a tin for the first time!  And the first time I made a madeira cake.

Then I used butter icing for the centre and to create a coating all over the cake ready to drape the regal icing over the ‘ball’ shape.  I put the bow on top.

The night before I had made butterflies and flowers from regal icing and they were nice and solid ready to glue (edible glue!) onto the cake.

Here is the finished cake:

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The recipient was very pleased, and her family liked it so much that her son asked: “Do you think Leanne knows it’s my birthday in July?”!!!  Well I do now and already have a plan of what to make for his birthday!

Keep an eye out for more cakes soon as I’ve made quite a lot recently.  I really should have called this blog ‘leanne baking for the family’ rather than ‘cooking’ as I’ve not done much creative cookery lately.  Ah well.  There’s always time for that when I’m bored of cakes!

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No cows allowed

My husband has just drawn my attention to something I’ve forgotten to mention so far in my recipe posts … none of them contain ‘actual’ milk.  So I thought that might be worth writing about.

I suffer from various food intolerance and my husband’s stomach can’t seem to tolerate any dairy products so we use alternatives in our every day lives: soya milk and vitalite are the main ones.

Most people turn their noses up at soya milk, but it’s usually because they’ve had the sweetened type rather than the non-sweetened.  We like any supermarket branded value/smart price ‘Unsweetened Soya’ at 59p a litre.  You can stock pile it in your cupboards and never run out!  And it has plenty of calcium and vitamin D so your bones will be happy too 🙂

Don’t get me wrong, I do love my Dolce Gusto coffee machine which uses cow’s milk, and a hot piece of toast with real butter on top is delicious (even if it gives me a rash!), but for cooking purposes – whether it’s for cakes or white sauce for lasagne – vitalite or dairy free sunflower spread works just as well.  I use it to grease the cake tins and for the ingredients themselves.  I guess butter icing should be called ‘vitalite icing’ in our house!

So if you look back at my 5 recipes so far, whenever I’ve listed milk or butter, I’ve always substituted them for the soya or sunflower alternative and the results are just as delicious.

When I’ve made birthday cakes for friends and I know we are going to be eating some of the cake with them, I don’t tell them it’s dairy free until they’ve eaten a slice – they always say they never would have known as there’s no difference at all in the flavour or texture of the cake.

When we first started using soya milk I was frightened that I’d never be able to have my favourite yorkshire puddings any more as I didn’t think soya milk would work the same magic as cow’s milk – making them rise and go crispy on the top yet be nice and stodgy at the bottom.  How wrong I was: just look at this picture of when I made us a roast dinner last Sunday:

A trick I learned from a friend of mine is to use a deep muffin tray.  This seems to keep them stodgy.  And they rose really well – always have a very hot oven and use very hot oil my husband’s always telling me.  I’d better not put the rest of my husband’s Yorkshire pudding tips or he’ll tell me off for giving away his family secrets!  I don’t think generations in the past would ever have used soya milk but it really works if you can’t tolerate milk.

I hope this post is useful both to those who struggle with dairy products like us; and for those who are lucky enough to eat everything with no problems, this may be helpful if you have any ‘dairy intolerant’ friends or family if you never know what to make for them when they come over for dinner.  The answer is to make exactly the same as you, just with a couple of alternative ingredients, safe in the knowledge they’ll work the same way as the real thing.

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Party cupcake time

My best friend and her husband often have parties/gatherings/soirees at their house and always provide lots of delicious nibbles for us all. So instead of ‘bringing a bottle’ I decided to bring some cakes. I dipped into my new Hummingbird Bakery Cake Days book and found these indulgent looking chocolate cupcakes too tempting to ignore.

These are very rich and went down very well at the party! In fact, my best friend is coming over this weekend so we can make them together as she liked them so much 🙂

Ingredients for the sponge:

80g unsalted butter

280g caster sugar

200g plain flour

40g cocoa powder

1tbsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

240ml whole milk

2 large eggs

Ingredients for the frosting:

400g icing sugar

100g cocoa powder (I only used 50g as thought 100g was a bit excessive!)

160g unsalted butter

50ml whole milk

Chocolate stars, sprinkles, shavings etc to decorate

Instructions:

1) Pre-heat oven to 190° C and line a muffin tin with muffin cases

2) Put the flour, cocoa, sugar, baking powder, salt, and butter in a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment (or use a handheld electric mixer) and beat on slow speed until you get a sandy consistency and everything is combined.

3) Whisk the milk and eggs together in a bowl then slowly pour 3/4 of this mixture into the flour mixture, beat on medium speed to combine, and add the remaining liquid mixture in continuing to beat at medium speed to get rid of any lumps but do not over-mix.
4) Spoon the batter into the paper cases until two-thirds full and bake in the preheated oven for 18-20 minutes, or until the cake bounces back when touched. A skewer inserted into the center should come out clean. Let the cupcakes cool slightly in the pan before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
5) To make the chocolate frosting, whisk the icing sugar with the cocoa powder and butter on low speed until the mixture is a sandy consistency. Pour in the milk, then increase to high speed until soft and fluffy.
6) When the cupcakes are cold, pipe or spoon the chocolate frosting on top and decorate with sprinkles.
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