Cupcake Catch Up

I noticed recently that a few cakes have slipped through the record keeping net so there are no recipes for you today – just cakey pictures for your voyeuristic pleasure.

passion fruit curd

This pot of deliciousness just had to be bought.  It led to the creation of…

orange cake with passion fruit curd centre

…these – orange sponge cake with a passion fruit curd centre, topped with fresh orange Italian meringue buttercream and finished with a drizzle of passion fruit and orange glaze.

passion fruit curd centre in an orange sponge

Gorgeous, golden, passion fruit curd in the centre of an orange sponge cupcake.

I’ve seen a few recipes for strawberry meringues using artificial strawberry flavourings, and one or two using freeze dried strawberries, but prefer to use fresh ingredients where possible; in the end I decided to do some experimenting using fresh strawberry purée for both flavour and colour (click on pics for full descriptions).

They tasted absolutely  divine but my word were they ever a faff to get baked!.

Basically I didn’t fully account for the extra moisture added by the fresh strawberries (albeit a mega reduced purée), took them out too soon and consequently had to spend hours in a cycle of reheating the oven, cooking the meringues for a few minutes, turning off the oven, letting everything cool, checking, reheating the oven…

This was not an ideal method of cooking them and resulted in slightly weepy meringues, BUT it truly was worth the effort in terms of taste.  The freshness of the strawberry flavour was exceptional and the light strawberry chocolate cream used in the ‘regular’ ones was a sublime compliment.  Having said that, the whipped white chocolate vanilla ganache in the cookie ones was pretty damned fabulous too!

So…more experimentation…longer initial cooking time…

Choc on choc on choc

Choc on choc on choc: chocolate fudge cupcake topped with milk chocolate buttercream under dark chocolate poured ganache. Decorated with whipped milk chocolate ganache, hand crafted marbled chocolate shards, dark chocolate shavings and a dark chocolate rolo.

Surely enough chocolate to satisfy even the most die-hard chocolate addict?!

Lemon Raspberry Ripple

Dreaming of summer with lemon raspberry ripple cupcakes: lemon sponge rippled through with fresh raspberry purée, topped with a swirl of fresh raspberry and white chocolate mousse, finished with a fresh, juicy raspberry.

Strawberry cupcakes with whipped strawberry chocolate ganache

Still bringing on the summer vibe with strawberry chocolate cupcakes: strawberry sponge with fluffy, whipped strawberry chocolate ganache, topped off with a chocolate dipped strawberry.

coffee with double choc

Coffee sponge cupcakes with a silky double chocolate topping (milk & white) of whipped ganache.

Ok, I think that’s the cupcakes all caught up now…there’s a couple of celebration cakes still to post but I’ll do those separately.

Goodness…I’ve just made myself very hungry…I’m off to see if Barn’s left anything in the cake tin…don’t know what you’re going to do…  😉

x

Utterly Luxurious Hot Chocolate

Question for you: what’s more comforting than a big chunk of chocolate?

Did I hear you say, “Nothing”?

Hmmm.

Let me present you with a big mug of silky smooth, creamy hot chocolate, and then I’ll ask you again…

top with whipped cream

Ok, so now let’s try that question again:  What’s more comforting than a big chunk of chocolate?

Did I hear you say, “A big mug of hot chocolate”?

You are correct! Well done! 😀

As far as I’m concerned, for true comfort, you can’t beat the hug in a mug that is hot chocolate.  But it has to be real hot chocolate – creamy, thick and luxurious – watery, instant stuff just doesn’t cut it.  And as for low calorie hot chocolate…well that’s just all kinds of wrong!

This is real hot chocolate – as velvety smooth as a kitten’s ear, delicious enough to make you purr.

Serves 2

Ingredients
500ml full fat milk (well, in for a penny…)
150ml double cream
75g dark chocolate
50g milk chocolate
A pinch of salt
1 cinnamon stick
1 vanilla pod
3 cloves
Music

First, let’s get your cream topping ready…

Whipped spiced cream

Split the vanilla pod and scrape out seeds with the tip of a sharp knife.  Place seeds and pod into a small pan together with the cream, cinnamon and cloves.  Warm, over a lowish heat, until it just starts to bubble at the edges.  Turn off heat, put a lid on the pan and leave for 30 mins or so.

When cool, pour into a bowl , cover and chill in the fridge.

spiced whipped cream

When it’s thoroughly chilled, pour the cream through a sieve, discarding cinnamon, vanilla pod and cloves, then whip it ’til it’s fluffy.

Or just use one of those super cool pressurised can numbers if you have one (oh the envy!)

luxury hot chocolate

Now on with the hot chocolate…

chocolate

Finely chop your chocolate and place in a pan together with the milk and a pinch of salt.

Warm gently, stirring all the time, until the chocolate has melted – whisk to blend and froth.

pour into mugs

Pour into favourite mugs.  If you want to be over the top decadent (who doesn’t?), now is the time to stir in a shot of Bailey’s…or brandy…or whatever else takes your fancy.

top with whipped cream

Pipe, spoon or squirt the whipped cream onto the top.

hot chocolate & cake

Grab yourself some cake, and settle back to slurp, nibble and relax.  I recommend also watching something old fashioned and comfortable on the TV…Columbo’s always a good bet.

Just one more thing…

ENJOY!

😀

x

Christmas Cupcakes

PHEW!

There! That’s the huge sigh of relief promised in the previous post.

Now here come the pictures…

Blurred boxed up

I’m delighted to say the cupcake order (also mentioned in the previous post – c’mon, keep up now! 😉 ) is now complete.

Santas, snowmen, robins and elves – a total of 72 cupcakes, all boxed up and ready to go.

Christmas Cupcakes
A selection of vanilla sponge and chocolate sponge cupcakes, topped with vanilla Italian meringue buttercream and decorated with fondant.

These cakes are notable for two reasons:

  1. It was the largest single order for cupcakes received to date, and
  2. It was the first time I paid someone to help me complete an order (see above!).

And so, with baby steps, I continue to make the dream a reality.

x

Blackberry & Apple Upside Down Cake

When I was a child, living in the depths of Wales, the summer holidays brought many good things…dawn-to-dusk freedom, yomping through fields and barns, ‘helping’ with hay making, riding bikes and ponies (not simultaneously), paddling in the stream, chasing water boatmen across ponds and marvelling at the way they could walk on water, eating crab apples (and never getting belly ache, despite everyone’s assertions that we would), building dens, grubbing in mud…kid paradise.

BlackberriesThe other thing that summer brought was blackberries – in fields and gardens, along hedgerows, in a derelict chapel, filling the little island in the middle of the stream – simply acres of unpolluted, naturally growing, free to all, fat, purple, lip-and-finger-staining berries. Three of us could easily harvest two buckets each within a matter of hours (it would probably have taken less time if we’d not eaten so many along the way), and there would still be plenty more for the days and weeks to follow.  Mum made a lot of jam.

So you see, to me blackberries are something you forage for and pick yourself by the bucket load – they’re not something you buy at around £2-£4 for a teeny little 170g pack of not-quite-ripe, cultivated, inferior flavoured, supermarket berries (oops, I think my food snobbery’s showing 😉 ).

That price just seems insane to me, so I tend to go without unless I happen across some rare, relatively unpolluted, inner city scrub land that’s bearing fruit.Big fat berries

However, if someone else succumbs to said insanity, then gifts me the berries, I am not going to spurn the gesture – that would just be rude.

Which is why, when a friend recently tossed a pack of Mexican blackberries to me and said, “I bought you these – thought you’d be able to do something with them”, I did not respond with, “Are you mad?!”  I simply said “Thank you very much”, and started to plan what to make.

Baked apple and blackberry cakeThis was an experimental recipe so required tweaks revealed themselves in the review process.  What follows is a posting of what I actually did, with guidance on the things that should be done differently.

The ingredients list is accurate and will work for a 7″ or 8″ round cake tin.

Because I was experimenting, I split my mix and did a 5″ tin with apple and blackberry, and a 4″ tin with just blackberries.  This produced two very different cakes – the one with apple was more of a pudding really, and the other a tea/coffee cutting cake.  Both had their own merits.

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(Some of) The Cakes of 2011-2012

During the early years of gluten free baking experimentation I was frequently curtailed by lack of funding.  By choosing to go to university I’d cut our household income in half, and it seemed a bit like taking the piss to spend too large a proportion of the tiny amount left over on cake ingredients.  For cakes that might not even work out that well.

I was also curtailed by time.  I set myself the target of a First, and I’m proud to say I earned it.  However, that involved sacrificing just about everything else in my life in order to study.  When I signed up it was 22 years since I’d last been in the education system…I had to work for those marks!  So, that meant that most of the baking done during the study years was within the confines of the summer break.

All of this meant that progress was a bit stop/start but whenever I could I was being brave and getting stuck in – trying out new things, learning and improving techniques.

Black Forest GateauGetting chocolate cake right was high on the list of priorities.  This Black Forest Gateau was for Barn’s 2011 birthday.  Given that my husband’s such a fan of the 70s (I know!  Bizarre or what?!), I decided to do a 70s style menu…prawn cocktail, steak ‘n’ chips plus the gateau.

There’s some whacking great bubble holes in that beast, but I was really getting there with the general flavour and texture.

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