Category Archives: Cupcakes

Malteser cupcakes

I wasn’t planning on making anything special for Red Nose Day, but Maltesers were giving a fiver to Comic Relief if you baked something red with Maltesers on it and tweeted a picture.  I thought I may as well give it a go.

I have made a chocolate malt cake before, courtesy of the Hummingbird Bakery’s Home Sweet Home, but it was a three-sponger with extra chocolate fudge sauce and, given that I was going to be assisted in the kitchen again, I was going to have to make something simpler.

I decided to stick with the Hummingbird Bakery, because, when you’re making cupcakes, there isn’t anywhere else a sensible baker would go.  I used a recipe for chocolate cupcakes from Home Sweet Home, and added some Horlicks powder as well as cocoa for the flavouring.  I think I might be getting a bit ahead of myself here so, back to the beginning.

I mixed softened butter, plain flour, caster sugar, cocoa powder, Horlicks, baking powder and salt in the KitchenAid while my trusty lieutenant in the egg-breaking department (Naomi (3)) successfully cracked two eggs into a jug and mixed them very vigorously with milk.

She’s not too keen on the KitchenAid (understandably) so she disappeared while I poured half of the liquid into the dry ingredients and mixed on slow until everything was mixed together.  I cranked up the speed a bit (my KitchenAid still can’t go above level six without threatening to leap off the work surface) until I had a smooth batter, and then turned the speed down again and added the rest of the liquid.

I used a tablespoon to divide the mixture between twelve paper cases. The advice in Home Sweet Home is to use a 50ml ice cream scoop to fill your cake cases.  I don’t have one and, since I don’t make cupcakes that often (this is only the third time in the life of Let’s Bake the Books), or use one when I eat ice cream, I’m not going to buy one.   I knew there was a chance that I’d overfilled the cases, but I could live with it.

I baked the cakes at 150°C fan for 25 minutes.  I checked at 20 and they weren’t bouncing back when I touched them, so I gave them the full 25 as per the recipe.  I was right about over-filling the cases.  My cakes needed a trim before the frosting went on.

I let them cool down and tidied them up.  There were enough off-cuts to keep me going until dinner and beyond.  I wasn’t complaining.

The big three-sponge chocolate malt cake in Home Sweet Home uses a cream cheese frosting that’s enriched with double cream.  I decided to go with a plainer version from The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook.  I sifted icing sugar into the bowl of the KitchenAid, added room temperature butter, threw a tea towel over the top to catch the icing sugar cloud burst, and turned it on.

Once the butter and sugar were well mixed, I added full fat cream cheese, held on to the mixing bowl (my mixer has been known to dislodge the bowl at higher speeds) and turned up the speed.  At this point I also added some red food colouring.  I wouldn’t usually have done this, but my cakes had to be red.  I had hoped that a few drops would be enough.  I should have known.  I used three whole tubes when I made a red velvet roulade and that still turned out brown.

A few drops weren’t going to be enough.  I put in a tube.  Still no good.  I opened another and emptied it.  Surely that would be enough bright red food colouring to make bright red frosting…

I covered my cupcakes in salmon pink frosting and handed them over to my decorator-in-chief, who gave them a very generous Malteser make-over.

Here’s the final version.

They were really good cupcakes, despite the colour.  They were chocolatey, maltesery, cream cheesy and just a little bit salty.  Salty may sound a bit odd in cupcake language but my husband says that it’s exactly why Hummingbird cupcakes are so good.  It’s the salt mixed with all the other lovely sweet stuff.   I have to say that I agree.  I don’t think three batches of cup cakes in my two years of blogging is enough.  I don’t think I’ll be making any more red ones any time soon though.

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White chocolate and cranberry cupcakes

I was feeling a little more festive this week so, to celebrate, I made some cranberry and white chocolate cupcakes from Hummingbird Bakery, Home Sweet Home (I’m not quite at the mince pies and yule log stage yet).  I realised that I hadn’t made cupcakes for the blog since my very first post, doughnut cupcakes, also from Home Sweet Home, so it was about time I tried a second batch.

I decided to make half the recipe.  Hummingbird recipes are usually pretty generous quantity-wise and Jon and I are trying to cut down a bit on our cake consumption.  The recipe was for twelve.  After halving the quantities, I ended up with nine.  So much for trying to cut down.

I started with the sponge.  I mixed softened, unsalted butter, plain flour, caster sugar, baking powder and salt in the KitchenAid until my mixture looked like breadcrumbs.  The KitchenAid is very, very wobbly these days. It’s getting to the stage where I have to keep a very close eye on it, even on the slowest of speeds.  I wonder whether Santa is reading…

I mixed milk and an egg together in a jug and, slowly, poured half of the liquid into the dry ingredients with the KitchenAid on slow.  I turned the speed up a notch, keeping a very tight grip on the mixer to prevent it leaping off the work surface.   Once I had a smooth batter, I slowed the machine down again and added the rest of the liquid.  Finally, I mixed in dried cranberries (the recipe didn’t specify, but mine were sweetened) and orange zest.  My mixture was pretty wet.  I poured it, rather than spooned it, into my cake cases which immediately folded in on themselves inside the muffin tin.  Oh well, I suppose the beauty of cupcakes, especially Hummingbird cupcakes, is that they are covered with so much buttercream that you can’t really see that the cupcakes themselves are a bit wonky.

They went into the oven at 150° fan.  The cooking time in the recipe is for between 20 and 25 minutes.  I checked them after 20 and they did need that extra five.  I would, usually, have taken a picture at this stage but the children were around and I had to referee a dispute between Daddy Zombie and Zombie Elsa.  Something to do with access to the Ice Palace apparently.  Anyway, once that particular tiff was sorted out, I’d completely forgotten about photographs.

I made buttercream to top the cakes by mixing sifted icing sugar and softened butter.  I added some milk, and then, bracing an arm against the KitchenAid, mixed on a high-speed until the buttercream was light and fluffy.  I added some melted white chocolate and mixed some more.

I topped the cupcakes with the buttercream and decorated them with dried cranberries and a sprinkling of orange zest.  Very festive they looked too.

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Actually, they looked more festive than they tasted.  I wasn’t really surprised because, to be honest, the only cranberry I usually eat at Christmas is in a sauce served with the turkey.  They were good though,  a light and fruity sponge topped with lovely white chocolate buttercream.  The cranberries were all at the bottom of the cakes, but with cakes as small as these, I don’t think it matters too much.  A good start to my festive baking.  Who knows, I may even feel up to mince pies next week.

Hummingbird Bakery doughnut cupcakes.

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.

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Stage 1: cupcakes successfully out of the oven.

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.

Stage 2: Doughnuts, maybe a few too many?

Stage 2: Doughnuts, maybe a few too many?

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.

The end results

The end results

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.