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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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American themed birthday cupcakes

As I mentioned in my last post, it was 2 of my best friends’ birthdays this week.  For Sasha’s birthday she had an American themed party at her house (as her and her husband have recently been to New York).  I dressed up as Sandy from Grease!  Here I am with Sasha (I’m on the left!) eating a slice of cheeseburger flavoured pizza (I didn’t even know that existed!!):

I wanted to make cupcakes as they’re very ‘New York’ – after watching Sex and the City.  So I was trying to think how to make them even more ‘American’ so I thought red, white and blue and stars.  So I spent ages cutting out all these stars from regal icing:

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The Hummingbird Bakery cupcake recipe is by far the best tasting cupcake I’ve ever had.  Here is the recipe:

4½oz/120g plain flour

5oz/140g caster sugar

1½ tsp baking powder

A pinch of salt (I left this out but used slightly salted butter)

1½oz/40g unsalted butter, at room temperature

4½floz/120ml whole milk

1 egg

¼ tsp vanilla extract

1 quantity vanilla frosting – see below

Stars to decorate!

A 12-hole cupcake tray, lined with paper cases

  • Preheat the oven to 170C/325F/gas mark 3.
  • Put the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and butter in a free-standing electric mixer with a paddle attachment (or use a hand-held electric whisk) and beat on slow speed until you get a sandy consistency and everything is combined.
  • Gradually pour in half the milk and beat until the milk is just incorporated.
  • Whisk the egg, vanilla extract and remaining milk together in a separate bowl for a few seconds, then pour into the flour mixture and continue beating until just incorporated (scrape any unmixed ingredients from the side of the bowl with a rubber spatula). Continue mixing for a couple more minutes until the mixture is smooth. Do not overmix.
  • Spoon the mixture into the paper cases until two-thirds full and bake in the preheated oven for 20–25 minutes, or until light golden and the sponge bounces back when touched.
  • A skewer inserted in the centre should come out clean. Leave the cupcakes to cool slightly in the tray before turning out onto a wire cooling rack to cool completely.
  • When the cupcakes are cold, spoon the vanilla frosting (see next recipe) on top and decorate.

And here is recipe for the tastiest frosting

Vanilla frosting

Makes enough to frost 12 cupcakes.

9oz/250g icing sugar, sifted

3oz/80g unsalted butter, at room temperature

1fl oz/25ml whole milk

A couple of drops of vanilla extract

Food colouring to suit (optional)

  • Beat the icing sugar and butter together in a free-standing electric mixer with a paddle attachment (or use a hand-held electric whisk) on medium-slow speed until the mixture comes together and is well mixed.
  • Turn the mixer down to slow speed. Combine the milk and vanilla extract in a separate bowl, then add to the butter mixture a couple of tablespoons at a time.
  • Once all the milk has been incorporated, turn the mixer up to high speed.
  • Beat until the frosting is light and fluffy, at least 5 minutes. The longer the frosting is beaten, the fluffier and lighter it becomes.
 Here they are pre-star decoration:
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The frosting tastes divine!!  And here they are all glammed up:
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Thank goodness for my little star plunger cutter!!
These went down so well at the party, I think everyone had one in the end, and Sasha was sad there wasn’t many left over at the end of the night for her to eat!
I actually find the cakes themselves are very moist and so satisfying 🙂
Give them a try, you won’t regret it.
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Heart shaped carrot cake

This week is birthday central for me!!  It is 2 of my best friends’ birthdays and my brother’s birthday.  My brother doesn’t live in ‘baking distance’ so I am not baking him a cake, but that left 2 lots to make this week 🙂

The first was my friend Hannah.  I had it on good authority (from her husband) that she likes carrot cake best, so that’s what I made.

I used trusty Mary Berry again.  Here is the recipe:

225g (8oz) self raising flour

2 level teaspoons baking powder

150g (5oz) light muscovado sugar

50g (2oz) chopped walnuts

100g (4oz) grated carrots

2 ripe bananas (mashed)

2 large eggs

150ml (5 fl oz) sunflower oil

Topping

175g (6oz) full fat soft cheese

50g (2oz) softened butter

100g (4oz) icing sugar

few drops vanilla extract

walnuts to decorate

1) Pre-heat oven to 180C or gas mark 4.  Grease a 20cm (8in) cake tin.  Line base with baking parchment.

2) Measure all the ingredients for the cake into a large bowl and beat well until thoroughly blended and smooth.  Turn into the prepared tin and level the surface.

3) Bake in the pre-heated oven for about 50-60 mins until the cake is well risen and shrinking away from the sides of the tin.  Leave to cool in the tin for a few minutes then turn out, peel off the parchment and finish cooling on a wire rack.

4) For the topping measure all the ingredients except the walnuts, into a bowl or in food processor.  Blitz until smooth.  Spread over the top of the cake, swirling the top with the spatula for a decorative effect.  Decorate the top with the walnuts.  Store in the fridge as the topping is soft.

I made a smaller cake so was able to fill the centre and make some bonus cakes in addition!

Here is the cake (with some bonus cupcakes!) without the walnuts:

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And here they are decorated with chopped walnuts:

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As carrot cake is also my husband’s favourite I made him some small cakes.  I included the vanilla extract bottle so you can see the proportions – such diddy little tins, I love them :

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I’m off to the second friend, Sasha’s, fancy dress birthday party tonight but don’t want to ruin the surprise of the American themed cupcakes so will post these later this weekend!  I may even include a picture of me dressed up – but the outfit is a bit unforgiving so we’ll see!!   Wish me luck!

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“Happy Birthday to me, lots of cakes for me”

As I wrote in a previous post, I was a bit concerned about cake over-load this birthday as I’ve been baking cakes for all my close friends and family for every occasion in 2012.  I thought they might all repay the favour at once!!  Luckily 4 lovely friends/family members bought or baked for me 🙂  This was still quite a lot to get through, but we managed of course and they were delicious.  Here they are half way through:

There’s a Victoria sponge my mother-in-law and daughter made, carrot cake and cherry/date squares two of my friends made and a Forever Friends cake my best friend bought.

As I am sure is the case in most places of work, if it’s your birthday you are expected to provide cakes for your work colleagues.  Our team at work has grown significantly in the last couple of years, so I was looking at a total of 20 people to bake for!  I did a poll on favourite flavours and they came up with lemon and chocolate as the main two.

So I went for chocolate cup cakes, lemon drizzle cake and chocolate chip cookies to cater for all tastes.  Here is a picture of my desk today:

My manager claimed she was floating on a ‘chocolate cloud’ after eating the cupcakes.  They are crazily rich and chocolatey!  They’re the same recipe as in my previous post https://leannecookingforthefamily.wordpress.com/2012/03/01/party-cupcake-time/  from the Hummingbird recipe.  These are such a fail safe recipe, everyone loves them.

The lemon drizzle cake is from Mary Berry’s baking bible – you can’t go wrong with good old Mary’s recipes!  Half the cake was gone by the end of the day – some people had 2 slices 🙂

Crunchy Top Lemon Drizzle Cake

100g/4oz softened butter

175g/6oz caster sugar

175g/6oz self raising flour

1 tsp baking powder

2 large eggs

4 tbsp milk

finely grated rind of 1 lemon

For the topping:

juice of 1 lemon

100g/4oz caster or granulated sugar

1) Pre-heat oven to 180C/Fan 160C/Gas 4.  Grease an 18cm (7inch) deep round cake tin then line base with greaseproof paper.

2) Measure all ingredients into large bowl and beat for 2 mins until smooth.  Place mixture into the tin and level the surface.

3) Bake for 35-40 mins or until the cake has shrunk slightly from the sides of the tin and springs back when lightly pressed.

4) For the topping, measure the lemon juice and sugar into a bowl and stir until blended.  When the cake comes out of the oven, spike the cake all over with cocktail sticks (this is my own adaptation to ensure the drizzle soaks into the cake) then spread the lemon paste over the top of the cake while the cake is still hot.

I doubled this recipe and put plain butter icing in the middle.

I’ll save the cookie recipe for another time 🙂

I wonder how much cake will be left tomorrow at the end of my working week (yes I only work 2 days a week – but I am a mum the rest of the week!).

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Mother’s Day Cupcakes

As I continue my 2012 mission of baking cakes for all my close family and friend’s birthdays, baby showers, special events, etc. I mustn’t forget my lovely mum and lovely mum-in-law for Mother’s Day tomorrow.

I seem to be making a lot of cupcakes lately, I just love decorating them and practising my piping skills!  So I’ve made two very different types of cupcake to cater for each mum’s taste.

As we were seeing my husband’s mum today, I made her cupcakes first.  I used a Mary Berry recipe, but adapted it to put chocolate chips in the cake mix and used dairy free spread instead of butter and soya milk.

Ingredients:

100g softened butter

150g self raising flour

150g caster sugar

3 tablespoons milk

2 large eggs

half tsp vanilla extract

2 handfuls of milk chocolate chips

For the icing:

100g softened butter

200g sifted icing sugar

25g cocoa powder

chocolate chips/other swirls etc to decorate

1) Pre-heat oven to 180°C.  Put muffin cases into a 12 hole muffin tin.

2) Measure all cupcake ingredients into large bowl and beat until blended and smooth.  Spoon evenly between paper cases.

3) Bake in pre-heated oven for 20-25 mins.  Make sure completely cold before icing.

4) For butter icing, beat together all ingredients for thick, creamy icing.  Pipe or smooth over cupcakes and add decorations.

Here are my finished articles!

The chocolate chips made the cake really indulgent with all the chocolate butter icing too – just what my mother-in-law loves!

I used the free cake stand you get with this lovely new magazine – I wish I could afford to subscribe to receive this each week but will just stick to buying it once a month or so!

The next cakes I made today are ready for my mum tomorrow.  They are apple crumble cupcakes.  I saw this recipe on a friend’s blog and thought they looked delicious.  My mum loves apple crumble so I thought these would be perfect.

You can find a brilliant step by step guide of how to make this on my friend’s blog here which I found really clear and easy to follow.  I used non-dairy butter and milk, and had to add a bit more flour to the crumble topping due to the slightly wetter consistency of sunflower spread.

Here they are:

They’re so delicious with the fruity texture inside and the crumble topping.

It’s a bit unfair that I won’t be getting cakes made for me on Mother’s Day (unless my 22 month old daughter suddenly becomes a baking prodigy!) but I’ve already eaten one of each kind I made – just to check they tasted ok, so that will have to do!

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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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