Today I made my first foray into adventurous baking. Doughnut cupcakes from the Hummingbird Bakery’s “Home Sweet Home” recipe book. The picture that goes with the recipe shows a light sponge cupcake oozing with jam, topped with cinnamon frosting and a tiny doughnut. I’m OK with cupcakes and frosting, but doughnuts? They require dough and deep-frying. Two things that I haven’t tackled before. They’re what make this recipe really scary.
As I thought, the cakes themselves didn’t pose any problems. I put the fat and the dry ingredients into the KitchenAid and mixed until they resembled breadcrumbs, beat the eggs and milk together separately, then added them to the mixer and beat it to a smooth batter. I didn’t use a 50ml ice cream scoop to put the mixture into muffin cases (as the recipe recommends) because I don’t have one. I used a tablespoon and filled the cases two-thirds full. My mixture made seventeen cakes in a standard size twelve-hole muffin tin twice. Both batches were in the oven for twenty minutes and came out looking not too dissimilar to the Hummingbird Bakery’s own picture of undecorated cupcakes – Hooray.
Now the doughnuts. The recipe suggests making these while the cakes are in the oven. Given my novice doughnut making status, I decided to wait until they came out before starting on the scary bit of the recipe. I’m glad I did because they took an age to make. First of all, my dough went wrong. Far too wet. Perhaps I didn’t work it for long enough, or maybe I should have added the liquid more gradually and stopped when the dough came together. Either way, I think I need a bit more practice in the dough department. I added a copious amount of extra flour, rolled out the dough and cut out the doughnuts with the stipulated teeny-weeny 2cm cutter. I stopped when I’d used around three-quarters of the dough, given that I had enough for all the cakes, and far more “baker’s perks” than were good for me.
So, tips for next time:
- Wait until the cakes are done before starting on the dough. It needs concentration, and it’s difficult to get anything out of the oven with gooey hands.
- Work the dough more. Perhaps it’s time I dusted down the dough hook for the KitchenAid.
- Make three-quarters of the recipe amount.
So, dough done, now for the really scary bit. Deep frying. In preparation I’d bought a frying basket from The Cook Shop in Leamington Spa (where I live). The Cook Shop is full from floor to ceiling of everything and anything that an adventurous baker could need. The basket reminded me of my Gran. Hers was full of solid lard, or maybe it was beef dripping, and she kept it in a fat-spattered pan in a plastic bag at the top of her cellar steps. She made brilliant chips. Very thin, very crispy, and very salty. Delicious. Needless to say, the Hummingbird Bakery don’t make their doughnuts with lard (or beef dripping), it’s sunflower oil all the way.
I had a damp tea towel to hand. As any forty-something knows, this is how to deal with a fat pan fire – or at least it was back in the 80s (we also know not to swim in disused quarries, and not to pick up spent sparklers – thank you public information films, you may have given us nightmares, but we never forgot the advice).
Luckily, the towel was not required. I waited until the oil reached the right temperature (using a sugar thermometer, rather than throwing a piece of white bread into the fat and seeing what happened), put a few (around twelve) doughnuts in the basket and put it into the oil. They took longer to fry than I thought they would and came out a bit harder than they should have. This, I am told by my husband who once had a holiday job frying poppadoms, is because if you put too many things into the pan at once, the temperature of the oil comes right down and the oil soaks into what you’re trying to fry. This makes them more heavy and greasy than light and fluffy. Another couple of tips for next time:
- Keep the temperature of the oil up.
- Don’t fry too many at once (definitely less than twelve).
The doughnuts did come out looking OK though, and they were rolled in lovely cinnamon sugar that did a lot to disguise the fact that they didn’t taste very doughnutty.
Finally, the frosting. The right amount of frosting for a cupcake is probably different for everyone. The Hummingbird Bakery recipe uses 660g of icing sugar (1lb 7oz in old money). This was too much for me. As with the doughnuts, three-quarters of the amount would be fine.
The last element of the recipe is assembling the cakes. I made a small hole (about 2cm diameter) in each one with a sharp paring knife (the sharper the better) , filled it with jam, covered the top with some of the cut away cake, ate the rest of the cut away cake, and covered with frosting. I think the frosting could have easily spent another couple of minutes in the mixer. It wasn’t as smooth as the picture in the recipe book, and, as you can see, I haven’t yet mastered the technique of finishing the frosting with an elegant swirl. To be honest, it’s doubtful that I ever will.
All in all, my first adventure in baking wasn’t a triumph, but it wasn’t a complete disaster either. The cupcakes were really good, with light sponge and, for those that didn’t know it was there, a lovely surprise with the jammy filling. The cakes did take me around three hours to make though (not including washing up time). Would I make them again? Not sure. I definitely need a lot more practice in the doughnut department first.