Chocolate Fudge Cupcakes

Who can’t resist the lure of chocolate? Me, me, me!  As I sit down typing now, the rain pouring down outside, the miserable dark sky is making me long for comfort. We shouldn’t be thinking of comfort food in July, we should be thinking of barbecues and salads!  Well this is the UK I suppose.

I’m just thinking about a couple of mint infused bars of chocolate in my cupboard that need to be used up, they will make fab brownies but in the meantime I found myself thinking of the chocolate cupcakes I baked last weekend for my RSPCA stall.

Once again I found myself looking towards the Primrose Bakery recipe book, this time the first one all about cupcakes.  I always find my chocolate items sell out first on my stalls, the Rocky Road is a winner, then the Brownies and followed by my chocolate cupcakes.  I don’t know why this is but I do know I love chocolate.

I baked my chocolate cupcakes in my usual way, using brown muffin cases from Morrisons.  I always find the supermarket cupcake cases do a fantastic job, they never come away from the side of the cake. They are not greasy and they do not lose their colour. Why pay loads of  money for cases with a fantastic design only to find they don’t do the job?

From stall to stall I try to vary the design on the top of the cupcake.  I always use the same type of chocolate frosting, the Primrose Bakery one is gorgeous. I always make double the quantity though and it tastes yummy because it uses real chocolate in the mixture, not cocoa powder.  At the moment I have a lot of mini fudge chunks which I bought from Lakeland in a tub.  They’re lovely to sprinkle on cupcakes or bake in cookies.  I’ve even caught my 12 year old son nicking some to put on top of his ice cream!

I was pleased that the chocolate cupcakes also sold out on my stall along with the carrot ones from my previous post.

 My chocolate cupcakes topped with chocolate icing sprinkled with Lakeland Mini Fudge chunks.  I also put some sugar animals on the top of some of the other cakes, this was to fit in with the RSPCA theme of the stall.

The chocolate cupcakes on my stand along with some carrot cupcakes.  

Carrot Cupcakes With A Cream Cheese Frosting

Sometimes I find it really hard baking cakes for a living.  I agree it can be stressful meeting deadlines, hoping and praying that the hard work you’ve put into your project is appreciated by the customer.  No, what I mean is that there is temptation all around you!  The odd stray Smartie or Malteser, a broken piece of cookie that might have snapped in half as you take it off the oven tray….The list of tempting treats is all around you at all the time!

Take last week for instance.  I was baking for a stall at a local Summer Fair in aid of the RSPCA and found myself in the kitchen with all the usual attractions.  I had so much to do and cram in to the day that I did not find time to sit down and have a proper lunch, instead I ate two pieces of toast!  No wonder at 4 o’clock I was desperate to eat anything, even my dog’s IAM’s were beginning to look appealing.

Last Saturday I felt even worse as I attempted a real favourite of mine from the Primrose Bakery Cookbook – Carrot Cakes with a Cream Cheese Frosting!  I ADORE carrot cake and decided this was a great recipe to try out along with the other things I usually offer on my stalls.  It was a crying shame to not be able to sneak one!  I was pleased they sold out along with my chocolate ones.

The only time consuming part of making the carrot cupcakes is the carrot grating.  I usually do it with the grater attachment of my food processor but I couldn’t be faffed to get it out of the cupboard and to be cleaning it up afterwards!  I just used my hand cheese grater, it took ages and I nearly grated my fingers but it was worth it.
The rest of the mixture was easily combined: golden caster sugar, flour, free range eggs, sunflower oil, vanilla extract and raisins, then the carrots were folded in.  There was enough mixture to comfortably fit into a dozen large cupcake cases.  These orange ones were from a set of rainbow coloured cases bought from Lakeland. I thought they looked lovely instead of the usual brown ones I use for carrot cakes.
I was delighted with the result and the smell was heavenly.  My sister in law who was staying with us asked if there were any leftovers, sadly there weren’t in the end!  I’ll just have to make some more on her next visit!

The Primrose Bakery suggested teaming the carrot cupcakes with cream cheese icing.  I usually do this as I find buttercream is a bit too sweet for my liking.  In the Primrose Bakery recipes they usually add their own swirl with a pallette knife but I prefer to do my own swirl with a star shaped nozzle.  I also added some ready made sugar carrot decorations that I had in the cupboard.

Et voila! Here are the carrot cupcakes on show at the Summer Fair along with some chocolate cupcakes I made to fit on my metal stand.
Happy Baking.
Sam xx

Chocolate and Banana Loaf

Today has been one of those days.  Up early to walk the dog though it was a massive massive effort this morning.  I’d slept badly and then as soon as the alarm went off I couldn’t muster the energy to get out from under the covers.  Once the dog had been walked I felt I hadn’t come alive until I’d had a massive cup of coffee and my bowl of cereal.
When I got home from work I had all my chores to do including hoovering and dusting.  All the boring mundane stuff that no one likes doing and what’s more I’d ordered the Fifty Shades Of Grey Trilogy to read, I so wanted to sit down and start reading.  Fat chance!
I cleared up in the kitchen and threw out about six small bananas that were very nearly black from my fruit bowl.  I find I buy bananas every week with good intentions and the children have stopped eating them, I just didn’t fancy eating them.  I decided to throw them in the bin as I couldn’t possibly have got the children to eat them when they were yellow so how could they eat them with black marks all over the skin?
Anyway, my sister-in-law who’s staying with us at the moment came in and put something in the bin. She said, “You’re not throwing those bananas out are you?”  I felt guilty about the waste but I didn’t think they would get used.  She said she made banana loaf with her ripe bananas. This gave me a massive brainwave.  Why didn’t I bake some banana loaf instead of chucking out the bananas?  I remembered that there was a Chocolate and Banana Loaf recipe in the Primrose Bakery Cookery Book and I was keen to try it.

Normally I don’t bake for the family during the week, only for customers, so it was a real treat to bake on a Wednesday. I just hoped the recipe would be as good as other banana loaves I’ve tried.

I looked at the recipe in the book and firstly was drooling over the accompanying picture with huge chunks of chocolate laced through the cake with the moist banana.  It was definitely going to be a winner if mine turned out like that.

The recipe itself was simple to make. You creamed butter and sugar in a bowl together, then added in beaten egg and vanilla extract. Then, you sifted in baking powder and plain flour.

 After that the fun part started.  I mashed the six bananas and as I did so I was immediately transported back 12 years to when I was weaning my son.  He loved mashed banana and always used to get excited when he saw me mashing one up for him at mealtimes.  Funnily enough though as soon as he could talk he developed a love of biscuits! In fact my son’s first word was biscuit though it came out as “git-git”!  Now, he would prefer the git gits to the bananas.

After I folded in the mashed banana I then added some chopped plain chocolate to the mixture and it went straight into a greased and lined loaf tin.  Over an hour later out came the most heavenly smell just as Mr Smith came home.  His first reaction was “Why are you baking again?”

The Chocolate and Banana Loaf Cake just fresh out of the oven and cooling on the wire rack.  I always use a cake tin liner when I make loaf cakes.

About half an hour later I cut the cake up into slices. My sister in law, daughter and I had a slice (diet down the pan AGAIN) for pudding, but Mr Smith said he would get indigestion!  He wants a slice for breakfast! Let’s hope there’s some left by then!
I can honestly say the Primrose Bakery recipe version was absolutely perfect. Easy to make and tasted delicious.  I hope to make this again and again and again!
Happy Baking.
Sam xx

My Idea of Summer- Strawberry Cake from The Primrose Bakery Cookbook

I was itching to get started properly on my Primrose Bakery Recipe Book challenge and thought it is going to be a tough one to choose from all those delicious recipes.  I wanted something that was seasonal, would reflect this time of the year and be suitable for a Sunday lunch dessert.

The month of June, for me conjures up lots of sunny days, long evenings, Pimms, Ascot, Wimbledon, strawberries and eating salads.  This year nothing can be further from the truth!  I have never had chance to go to Ascot due to work commitments and having children of school age, the same goes for Wimbledon.  We have had just a little sun to remind us of what it can look like!  My flip flops and summer clothes have gone back in the wardrobe and out have come the wellies and the fleeces!  And who wants to eat salads when the weather is so cold and depressing?  Comfort food is in, salads are definitely out, out out!

Well, I didn’t want to entirely forget that we are in the month of June! Although as I type on this Sunday evening the sun is finally shining through my lounge window, I still wonder if it will still be there in the morning.

So, it had to be the Strawberry Cake from the second Primrose Bakery Book, a gorgeous pale pink buttercream topped layer cake finished off with whole strawberries.  It would be a lovely cake to serve at any occasion but I wanted a slice for us to have for our pudding after our roast chicken.

Here’s how I made it:

The ingredients: sifted self- raising flour, baking powder, cornflour, caster sugar, vanilla extract and free range eggs were mixed together as an all in one method in a mixing bowl with my electric whisk.  I then folded in the small pieces of strawberries.  

I greased and lined two sandwich tins (20cm or 8″ diameter) and divided the strawberry mixture between the two tins equally.

The cakes were baked in the oven for about 25 minutes.  I found mine needed slightly longer as they weren’t cooked in the middle.

 While the cakes were baking I made up the vanilla buttercream icing.  I personally thought the vanilla extract would make the icing very sweet and sickly.  My mum once told me that my Nana used to put lemon juice in her buttercream icing to tone down the sweetness, I decided to try this out.  Thankfully I wasn’t too heavy handed with the food paste colouring, I was worried my hand would slip and we would end up with Barbie shocking pink!

When the cakes had cooled I turned them out on the rack, they had ridges all over them from where the greaseproof paper circles had made patterns on the mixture.  Not a good look but it’s the taste that matters.

After sandwiching the cake together with Bonne Maman Strawberry Conserve, more sliced strawberries, a thin layer of buttercream, I was allowed to decorate the top.  I just couldn’t get the famous Primrose Bakery swirl right, the knife seemed to make the icing go the other way!  In the end it looked a bit untidy but once I’d put a few whole strawberries on it looked ready.  I was proud of my pretty cake.
Then my husband came back from going to the supermarket.  I showed him the cake and he said “Oooh. it’s a blancmange cake!”  Thanks, dear!  When we were eating our pudding he scraped off the icing and said it was too sweet, think I need to try out a less sweet version for my family for next time.  When  my 12 year old son saw the cake he said it was “gay”.  It didn’t stop him eating it though.  I liked it, the strawberries held their shape throughout the cooking and it was perfect for a summer lunch dessert or celebration.

Showing a view of the cake from the top.  I tried to find equal sized strawberries.

Showing a view of the cake cut into with the layers, by this time we had eaten our pudding and the remainder of the cake was ready to be put away in a tin for later on in the week.

If you have an IPhone you can download a Primrose Bakery App which has the Strawberry Cake recipe on it.  I followed the recipe from the book but I have just bought the App as it has some useful videos and a couple of recipe variations not in the books.

Happy Baking!

Sam xx

A Yorkshire Wedding

As my first blog post said I’m now attempting to bake my way through the two Primrose Bakery recipe books within a year! So this means I’d better get cracking as I want to be finished by June 17th 2013!  There’ll be another book and another challenge waiting for me!

But, as I’ve had the two Primrose Bakery Books a while now they have been dipped into for ideas for cake commissions and orders that customers have placed with me.  I have always drooled over the pretty pictures in the book and loved the beautifully photographed cupcake towers created for weddings and other special occasions.

So, it was the Primrose Bakery recipe books I turned to for inspiration when I was asked to make a Yorkshire wedding cake and cupcakes a month ago.  When my son was at Primary School he used to go to his school after school club a couple of times a week when I did supply teaching and ran an After School Cookery Club.  The manager of the club had seen my cupcakes when I had brought some in for a party and admired them.  I was thrilled to be asked to make her wedding cake and cupcakes for her wedding.  I found the perfect example of what I was looking for, for the design brief when I looked through my Primrose Bakery books.  I love the idea that each guest has an individual cupcake to eat, saves on the cutting up of the cake or they can be taken home easily if they don’t want to be eaten there and then.  I also like the idea of a top tier that the bride and groom or birthday boy/ girl can cut if they want to.

The Yorkshire Wedding Cake was made at the end of an extremely busy week for me!  In fact I had just celebrated my 40th birthday with a party the weekend before, gone through an OFSTED Inspection at the school where I work in my day job and then on the Friday I set to on the wedding cake order.  I panicked when I looked and found I hadn’t got enough silver foil cases earlier on in the week and had had to order more over the internet. Thankfully they arrived in time!

The Top Tier- made from The Primrose Bakery’s Vanilla Layer Cake and Vanilla Buttercream recipe coloured a delicate lilac and finished with handmade Yorkshire Roses.

 Here are the matching cupcakes, based on the Primrose Bakery’s Vanilla Cupcake recipe and topped with a version of their Vanilla buttercream.  The only difference is the Primrose Bakery tend to apply their icing with a pallette knife swirl, I prefer to use a star nozzle like on an ice cream!

Here is the cake and cupcakes all assembled and ready for the wedding reception to start.  
I was more nervous taking the cakes to the venue.  The bride had given me brilliant directions and I was easily able to park outside the Hospitium to take the cake in, it had been a horrible wet night.  The roads were slippy and it took me a while to carry all the cakes to the boot of my car from my house.  I made sure they were all safely stowed in the boot and drove very slowly all the way along the A59 to York.  I couldn’t care less that I was driving like an old fart, all I cared about was getting the cakes safely to their destination.  Even a pothole in the road can be catastrophic!  Luckily the staff at the Hospitium were wonderful and offered help in setting the table up for me to assemble the cakes on my stand.  Finally they were in place and I could drive home and start on my next cake commission.
Luckily the cakes went down very well, I was delighted as I always feel a bundle of nerves handing over a cake to a customer and I was proud of my very first Primrose Bakery inspired wedding order.
Happy Baking!
Sam x