It seems like ages since I’ve baked cupcakes. A couple of years ago they were everywhere and I was always being asked to make them. I love making cupcakes, especially when you can put gorgeous decorations on them. The only trouble is that I find the icing far too sickly sweet. Doesn’t stop me baking for other people though.
Two weeks ago I had a much needed day off to catch up at home. Of course baking always takes over my mind and all I can think of while I’m hoovering or dusting is baking. Why is baking seen of as fun but hoovering is not? At least it was an incentive to get me through the tedious bits.
I’m a huge fan of Sugar and Crumbs’ Natural Flavoured Icing Sugarsand had a packet of their black cherry icing sugar to try out. With this in mind a few weeks previously I had bought a tin of black cherries in syrup. I had to de-stone all the cherries first. Can you imagine what a nasty surprise that would have been if I hadn’t have taken the stones out? I then thoroughly rinsed the cherries and patted them dry on some kitchen roll so that they weren’t covered in the sticky syrup. I kept a dozen whole for decorating the top of the cupcakes and chopped the remaining ones up into quarters to go inside the mix.
It was a perfect excuse to use some pretty black and white patterned cupcake cases I had bought last year in TKMaxx and never used. Thankfully they were great quality ones. Sometimes you buy pretty cupcake cases only to find they fade in the oven or feel greasy afterwards. These didn’t and still looked perfect when they came out of the oven.
The recipe for these delicious cupcakes is from The Hummingbird Bakery Cake Days book. They were baked by creaming butter and sugar together, then adding eggs, plain flour and baking powder to the mix. After this I folded in the stoned, rinsed and quartered cherries.
Not before long the cupcakes were in the oven and I was greeted with a delicious smell wafting throughout the kitchen. Time for a cup of tea before starting on the icing.
If you read my blog regularly you will notice I use Sugar and Crumbs’ icing sugars and cocoa powders a lot. I’m not working for them or connected to them in any way but I just love their products. Every time they bring out a new flavour I’m always desperate to try it. The Black Cherry one isn’t a new flavour in their range but it was one I’d not seen before. As with their other flavours you could smell the aroma of the black cherries when you opened the packet.
Once the cupcakes had cooled down and I’d finished my cuppa, I made up the buttercream. I find buttercream a bit sickly so I always add a splash of lemon juice to mine. This is a tip I picked up from my late Nana Mary and also from my mum. It takes the teeth tingling sweetness away if you don’t like it. Just a splash of it, mind!
A few minutes later and my cupcakes were ready. A stoned black cherry on top to finish!
As my regular SmartCookieSam readers will know, I’m a member of the internationally renowned Clandestine Cake Club. Although there are plenty of events held all over the world and some very local to me in North Yorkshire, there are also virtual or VCake events for those who can’t get to an event. Or you can join them if you want an excuse to bake!
At the end of January, Lynn Hill the founder of the Clandestine Cake Club held a virtual event where you were invited to “dust off your old cookbooks” and bake something from a recipe book you had not used for a while.
I have loads of recipe books like that and my family are sick of all the books I have all over the house. Some are more used than others and Lynn’s event gave me the perfect excuse to search through my stash and bake something. When my Nana Mary (my Mum’s mum) died I inherited her cookbooks. Nana and I were so alike in lots of ways, we both loved cooking and baking, knitting and sewing and also reading books. Sadly Nana died in 1994, just after I’d sat my teaching degree finals. She used to collect recipes from everywhere and wrote them down from TV cookery programmes or from the radio as well as cutting recipes out of magazines.
One of Nana’s baking books was a Sainsbury’s one. It dates from the late 1980’s and I loved looking through the recipes in it. As I decided what to bake I came across a mouthwatering recipe for a coffee sponge. I never remember Nana baking a coffee sponge, she tended to make fruit cakes and I do remember her lemon drizzle cake.
Mr SmartCookieSam’s birthday is at the end of January so it was a perfect opportunity to bake the coffee cake for then. My husband doesn’t have a sweet tooth but he loves coffee cake. I had a couple of goodies to make this cake even extra special: some Sugar and Crumbs Coffee flavour Natural icing sugar, some cocoa covered coffee beans bought in Costa coffee and some glittery gold and silver star candles thrown in the trolley when I was shopping in Tesco.
The coffee sponge was made using the whisking method. I whisked eggs and sugar together until they became light and fluffy. Then in went some flour and baking powder, followed by a spoonful of vegetable oil and some semi skimmed milk. Also added to the mixture to give it a coffee flavour was a teaspoonful of Monin Tiramisu sugar syrup.
The cake baked for about 20-25 minutes and rose beautifully in the oven. It smelled delicious. When it was cooling I made up the coffee buttercream. I also crushed up some pecan nuts to go in the middle of the cake and to sprinkle on the top of it.
The cake was layered together with the coffee buttercream and sprinkled with chopped pecan nuts in the middle and on the top of the cake. I used a packet of cocoa covered coffee beans to decorate the top as well.
We had a slice of birthday cake and it was delicious. What a treat to celebrate Mr SmartCookieSam’s birthday and he really enjoyed it.
I’m a member of the internationally renowned Clandestine Cake Club and regularly go along to local events in Yorkshire. I’ve been a member for over 3 years now and have made a lot of friends through the club. We take a cake each along to the event and try tiny pieces of each other’s cakes. If we can’t eat much, we take cake home at the end to share with family or work colleagues. Last year I was excited to hear that two of my recipes were to be published in the second Clandestine Cake Club cookbook “A Year Of Cake”. My Welsh Honey and Camomile Bara Brith and Mojito and Coconut Tres Leches Cake recipes were featured in the book, much to my surprise but happiness!
Lots of yummy recipes are featured in the book including ones created by friends. One such recipe I’ve been desperate to have a go at baking is the one my friend Clare submitted for the book, her take on a British classic pudding in cake form- Eton Mess. Containing some of my favourite pudding ingredients, such as meringue, strawberries and raspberries mixed with cream. Clare’s cake uses buttercream and jam to sandwich a traditional Victoria sponge together and the Eton Mess part of the cake is it’s photogenic topping. Clare’s recipe also contains another ingredient I love which works perfectly with strawberries and raspberries, a luscious addition of white chocolate chunks.
Last Saturday afternoon I was at home for once. It’s been a crazy few weeks with every weekend spoken for and work has been chaotic. Baking was my chance to unwind and enjoy a bit of “me time”. I wanted to bake a cake to celebrate my daughter passing her college course. She is now a qualified make up artist and is off to uni to study media makeup and prosthetics in September. We are all very proud of her as she aims to follow her dream. Baking cakes of course is one of my ways of congratulating her! Everyone at home loves pavlova and cake so I knew the Eton Mess cake would be a big hit.
To bake the cake I started off by baking the sponge part. This is done in the usual way that you make a Victoria sponge and it wasn’t long before I was creaming butter and sugar together with my handheld electric mixer. Clare suggests using margarine instead of butter so I used Pure Non Dairy spread which I swear by for baking sponges and cupcakes. It makes them very light. Then in went four eggs one by one which were beaten into the mixture. As I started to add some self raising flour and baking powder I realised I hadn’t got the cake tins out. My cake tin drawers in my kitchen are getting very messy and it takes me ages to sort through them to find the right size tin. I was annoyed that one of the tins had fallen down the back of the unit and got wedged between it and the drawer below. Hubby would say it was my own fault for having too many cake tins! I don’t agree!
Finally having found the tins I was looking for I got them greased and the mixture in them ready to go in the oven. For once I remembered to set the timer and being as I have a fan oven I wanted to check them after 20-25 minutes. This is when I realise I’m not that good at multi tasking. I put some washing in the machine and another load out on the line. It took me ages to do this as there were loads of pairs of socks and pants to hang out! By the time I’d gone back inside I realised it was time for the cake to come out of the oven. Thankfully got it out just in time!
Now for the decoration part. For the cake topping I needed to make some mini meringues. I’ve only made meringues once or twice before, it’s something I’ve never really done a lot of. I always thought of them as being fiddly and complicated. But Clare’s way of whisking the egg whites until they are stiff then adding caster sugar a teaspoonful at a time was a great help to get the right consistency. I have always tipped in the sugar and wondered why I couldn’t get them to keep the egg whites stiff enough. Also, to add into the meringue mixture you mix in some cornflour and white wine vinegar. I was impressed with my shiny meringue mixture and then got my baking trays ready. I prepared up my piping bag and my large star nozzle. The meringue piped easily onto the trays and there was more than enough to go on the cake as well as having some left over.
Now for the cake assembling and decorating time, the bit I was looking forward to the most. I decided to use whipped cream in place of buttercream in the recipe. I had a small pot of cream in the fridge which needed to be used up and I didn’t want to waste it. I whipped up the cream but there wasn’t enough to fill the middle of the cake along with some strawberry jam. So instead the cream was just spread on the top of the cake with the jam in the middle. Once the cream was spread on I put meringue stars around the edge of the cake and filled the middle with raspberries, strawberries and white chocolate chunks.
Although the cake had been baked on Saturday afternoon for my daughter, we didn’t actually get to enjoy some until the day after. My daughter had been working all day Saturday and went straight to a friends’ house to a party and sleepover. Then on Sunday morning she went straight to work and didn’t get to eat her cake until Sunday tea time. I kept the cake in the fridge due to the cream in it and it kept it fresh. An extremely popular cake all round and one I would love to bake again in the future.
Back in the last week of August I finally was free to go along to one of Wharfedale Clandestine Cake Club’s events. This was the first time I’d managed to get along, there was always something else happening. Thankfully being the summer holidays I had more time and I was free to go along being as the event was on a Thursday night. We met up in Otley and the cake theme for this event was “Go On, Surprise Me”!
I thought of baking a cake which had a pattern inside or was a rainbow cake but I also wanted to bake something I had never baked before. I scoured my recipe books and fell upon a pretty looking Oreo Cookie Cake with rosette swirls of buttercream in the Clandestine Cake Club Cookbook. This recipe is by Helen Costello from St Helen’s Clandestine Cake Club and had originally been baked for an American themed cake event. I had a bag of Oreo cookie pieces in my baking cupboard which I had bought in an American candy shop a couple of days earlier. The cake had Oreo pieces crushed inside the cake and I thought that the pieces were hidden inside covered up by the rosette buttercream piping. So the cake would have its surprise after all!
On with the baking. I started to bake the cake the day before the event by greasing two of my 8″ diameter loose bottomed sandwich tins. The cake itself was baked by beating butter and sugar together until light and creamy. The cake used seven egg whites and no yolks so it was great fun separating them.. NOT! After that I added in vanilla extract, some self raising flour and then finally added in some crushed Oreo pieces.
The cakes baked for about 45-50 minutes in my fan oven.
On the morning of the event I made up the vanilla frosting. I spread some frosting on the top of one of the cakes and sandwiched it to the other one. Then I coated the top and the sides of the cake. Unfortunately the frosting quantity wasn’t enough to go round and I only managed to piped the rosettes on the top of the cake. I was very disappointed with my rustic decorating skills.
Once I saw the finished cake I was ashamed and disappointed with my cake wreck. So unfortunately my surprise ingredient ended up being sprinkled around the bottom of the cake so it would detract away from the messy sides of the cake. The top ended up with more Oreos being thrown on top of it and then as suggested in the recipe about sprinkling your cake with edible lustre dust. I did have some gold and silver lustre dust in my cupboard last Christmas but it had all gone so I had to use my lilac edible glitter instead. I was a bit heavy handed with it as you can see!
There were lots of lovely cakes at the event and I enjoyed lots of different surprises. From sweetie pinata cakes to a chocolate cake containing quinoa, we were well and truly spoilt. We had some delicious cakey leftovers to take home and I made sure I took some home for my family to enjoy as much as I did.
I wanted to get started on my latest Cooking The Books Challenge so what better excuse was to bake for my school’s Summer Fair? This month’s book is the third Primrose Bakery Book- “Primrose Bakery Celebrations” and I have had it for several months now and not tried any of the recipes out of it. After all that’s the reason why I set myself this monthly challenge, to get myself baking from the books I buy and then put on the shelf to look pretty, then forget about them!
I had four different cupcake recipes to try out from Celebrations and I chose flavours which were going to be the easiest to create with ingredients I could easily get in my local supermarket. I didn’t have time to go to my local American candy stockist or even to order online.
First up were the White Chocolate Cupcakes with White Chocolate Icing from the Young Girl’s Party Chapter of the book. I found these simple to make even though the weather was very hot and sticky on the day I made them. The chocolate melted really easily and I found that there was not enough white icing to cover the cupcakes using the piping method that I like using when baking cupcakes.
Second to be baked were the Cola Cupcakes in the Boy’s Party chapter. I’d already wanted to bake Cola Cupcakes but never got around to it. I’m surprised as I love fizzy cola bottles but when I went to our local Morrisons all I could find was a pack of large ones. I didn’t want to buy a multipack because I’d be nibbling the remaining sweets I didn’t need for the cakes! When I opened the large cola bottle pack I found there were only 8 in there so the remaining 4 cupcakes were sprinkled with popping candy! In the recipe introduction it says “we found that using a cola concentrate rather than real cola is much more effective” but unfortunately I couldn’t find a bottle of SodaStream cola concentrate so a real can of “full-fat” coke had to do! The matching cola icing turned out very runny and just would not thicken up. Instead of swirling it on it was spread on just as it seemed to get warmer and warmer in my kitchen!
When the cola cupcakes were finished I got on to bake number three. This time I had a go at Salted Caramel Cupcakes which sounded incredibly rich. The cupcakes were vanilla flavour but were topped with the rich caramel icing. They did have a hidden surprise in them though- half a chunk of Galaxy Bar!
I cheated and instead of making my own caramel I used a jar of salted caramel sauce bought from a local deli. The icing for these cupcakes came up a bit thicker and spread on the cakes much easier. My daughter came into the kitchen as I was making these and asked if she could help. So she had the fun job of bashing a packet of Werther’s Original caramel sweets with the end of a rolling pin so they could be sprinkled on the top of the cupcakes.
The final bake for the summer fair was some Eton Mess cupcakes. I love Eton Mess pudding so I wanted to see if I could recreate it in a cupcake. I baked them slightly differently to the way they were in the recipe. The recipe called for making a hole in the baked cupcake and poking in a fresh raspberry and some mascarpone cheese. I didn’t bother with the mascarpone but put the raspberry into the mixture before it baked. When the cakes cooled I got ready to make the creamy frosting. I needed to add pureed raspberries to cream to make it pink but I couldn’t believe it, I hadn’t got enough raspberries. In the end I had to use artificial pink food colouring in the cream.
To finish off the Eton Mess cupcakes I had bought some ready made mini meringues. I could have made them myself but I just ran out of time. My daughter enjoyed crushing them for me and then sprinkling them on the cupcakes.
But… disaster struck when I got the cupcakes to the school fair the day after. I had boxed the cakes and put them in my garage which was the coolest place in the house being as I didn’t have a fridge which worked! The other cupcakes were fine but the Eton Mess cupcakes were a mess! The meringue melted into the topping and looked horrible. So they went in the bin. I was gutted but I will try and bake another batch on a cooler day in the future so that I can see what they should taste like!
My husband doesn’t really care much for birthdays. To him they’re just another day on the calendar. Until he met me, that is! He says he doesn’t like a fuss and big celebrations but I think you should mark the day in some way or another.
A few weeks ago we were talking about birthdays and my hubby said “Don’t bother making me a cake,” But I bet if I didn’t serve him one up he would feel upset. So I try a compromise, I make him a small cake which is big on the flavours he loves and not swamped in sugarpaste or fancy decorations.
So why a Mojito cake? Both my husband and I love Mojitos especially since we first drank one in the Australian restaurant Reef n’ Beef in Copenhagen a few years back. The mixture of white rum, lime and mint was just simply gorgeous. By the way, the meal was lovely as well! Ever since then we have tried to make them at home, especially in the summer. We also love drinking them on holiday.
So, I baked a simple Victoria Sponge recipe and added some white rum (sorry dear hubby I nicked the rest of your Bacardi to bake your birthday cake), lime juice and zest as well as some chopped mint to the basic mixture. The icing was a lime flavoured buttercream and to decorate I used chopped pecans and hazelnuts round the edge of the cake along with lime slices for the top.
My hubby was pleased with his cake and enjoyed it even though he originally asked me not to make a cake. Everyone enjoyed it and I was pleased with how the Mojito flavours all worked well together in the mixture. He didn’t even bat an eyelid when I confessed to using up his Bacardi!
I got the idea of the Mojito cake from Lorraine Pascale’s first book “Baking Made Easy” Her recipe uses a Genoise sponge, mine was an ordinary Victoria Sponge like mixture. I used her decoration idea as well, although hers was just using pecan nuts. I didn’t have enough pecans so I added hazelnuts to mine as well.
Last week I blogged about my fantastic goodies which Whynut sent me and how excited I was to receive them. After trying out the early harvested peeled pistachio kernels I wanted to try out the other products as soon as I could. My mum, like me adores pistachio nuts and I thought I could incorporate the packet of lightly salted pistachio nuts I was sent into a cake or cupcakes to celebrate her birthday last weekend.
Inspiration came in the end from a cupcake book I have and love: Making Cupcakes With Lola. There is a recipe in the book for chocolate and pistachio cupcakes. The cupcake itself has chocolate chips inside it and is topped with a chocolate swirl icing and finished with chopped pistachios. I didn’t have enough spare chocolate to make the icing as well so the icing became an experiment. I took a large spoonful of the pistachio paste that was also part of the goodie box and swirled it into some buttercream icing instead. This tinted the icing the gorgeous pastel green hue that pistachios are. The cupcakes were then topped with whole pistachio nuts. I thought these looked pretty as well, the nuts had a beautiful rose pink tint to them which contrasted well with the green.
Here’s how I made the cupcakes:
I must admit I had a giggle when I first opened the tub of pistachio paste. I was expecting the paste to be a delicate green colour but to my surprise it was a funny dark green colour. Do you know what it reminded me of? It reminded me of the colour of meconium stained pooey nappies that newborn babies produce!
Straightaway I got my piping bag and large star nozzle set up, piping a giant swirl on the top of each cupcake. Before they had a chance to set, I opened the pack of pistachios and sprinkled an equal amount onto each cupcake.
Off we went down to Nottingham to stay with my Mum for a couple of days and I took the cupcakes with us. We ate one on the Monday afternoon with a cup of tea and we both loved them. Mum kept some back when we had gone home and they were still fresh for her to serve when she had some friends around for afternoon tea. My kids weren’t keen as they don’t like pistachios but Mum and I were tucking in. To be honest I usually find buttercream on cupcakes a bit sickly but this was fine with the added paste. I still have some paste left to use so I’m wondering what I can make with it next. Watch this space!