Monday, 29 December 2008

peanut butter-y goodness in a cup!

so a friend of mine is a mad, crazy peanut butter when we were invited over to his place for a hot dog could i not make something with peanut butter in it. so a lot of the time when i think peanut butter...i think Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, i don't know why, but they are just the epitomy of peanut butter-ness in a little cup. and it just so happened that a certain candy store here in Singapore in Vivocity were having a one for one deal on aforementioned how could i possibly pass up a bargain like that! 12 peanut butter cups for the price of 6! i'm a sucker for bargains and especially the sweet variety...
so anyway...i thought i'd try and drop the Reese's cup into the bottom of the cupcake and hope for the best that it would bake in. i used my brownie cupcake recipe - which is always a hit and dropped the peanut butter cup in first then topped with the batter. baked as usual...and the result...well, once they had actually been allowed to cool off properly (a few suspects couldn't wait and ate them while still cooling and the result was that the peanut butter cup dropped straight off the bottom...duh!) the Reese's cup held quite nicely and the cupcake was this yummy chocolate-y delight with a lovely layer of peanut butter at the bottom. very very more-ish! all you peanut butter fans out there...this is NOT to be missed!

Sunday, 21 December 2008

mulberry spelt tart...a pie full of goodness!

what better way to get this super food than in a tart-full of them! this was made as a special request for a dear friend, and again, who am i to disappoint? so this is the result. i think i left the tart in for a little longer than i would have liked so would keep that in mind for next time...30 mins is definitely sufficient to ensure the crust is not too hard. but the taste with the mulberries and the earthy texture of the spelt was delicious. this is definitely a keeper!

Saturday, 20 December 2008

toffee bread and butter pudding...get sticky all over!

bread and butter pudding is such comfort food...i love it...and what better way to enjoy it than with the bread spread thickly with toffee rather than butter...oh so good! and then to make sure you cover with a huge scoop of vanilla bean ice-cream and really there is never going to be a need to leave home again...! the best part of bread and butter pudding is that it is so easy to make and uses up all that few day old bread that no-one ever wants to eat any what do you do? take about 8 slices of any old bread (no, really!) spread thickly with homemade toffee (the recipes on here somewhere), place in a pie dish, sprinkle lovingly with raisins and then add your custard mix consisting of 4 eggs, 3 cups of milk and 2 tblsp of honey on top...make sure bread is pressed into custard mix...pop in the oven in a bain marie...ya know the one where you have to put the dish in a tray of water...bake until golden brown on top and set...about 40 minutes...and then bob's your uncle, fanny's your aunt (well, not really!) it's done!
enjoy shamelessly...especially after all that intense hard preparation work!

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

charming chocolate mulberry cupcakes!

'here we go round the mulberry bush, the mulberry bush, the mulberry bush..' except today we're going round the mulberry cupcake - the chocolate mulberry cupcake! i was given some mulberries to play around with and felt the tartness of the berries would work well in the smooth, richness of chocolate.

mulberries are considered a kind of 'super food' because they are full of anthocyanins which are edible pigments which hold potential use as dietary antioxidants providing potential health benefits against a variety of diseases. i found a list of 10 health benefits of mulberries according to traditional medicine and although not scientifically verified, it makes for an interesting read...

Cancer Prevention
Mulberries are a good source of resveratrol, a potent phytonutrient also found in grapes that researchers believe can prevent cancer and aid in the fight of existing cancers.

Life Extension
Because of their resveratrol content, mulberries may be a tool in one's life extension arsenal, as resveratrol has shown in several studies to extend the life of mice.

Blood Tonic
In Chinese medicine, mulberries are considered a blood tonic, meaning that they cleanse the blood and increase its production, strengthening the entire system.

Kidney Strengthener
In Chinese medicine, mulberries are believed to strengthen the kidneys.

Liver Cleanser
In Chinese medicine, mulberries are believed to be effective in cleansing the liver.

Better Hearing and Vision
In China, tea made with mulberry paste is believed to strengthen one's hearing and vision.

Constipation Cure
In Turkey, a treatment for constipation is to eat white mulberries on an empty stomach with a glass of water.

Anemia Treatment
Because they are quite high in iron, mulberries are a great food to use in the treatment of anemia.

Cold and Flu Treatment
In Turkey, mulberry molasses is used as a treatment for colds and flu. Their effectiveness in this way may be due to their high vitamin C content.

Premature Gray Hair Remedy
In several countries, mulberries are considered an effective remedy for prematurely gray hair.

so what did i do...i used a previous for black forest cupcakes and just swapped the mulberries for the black cherries. then i topped them off with some melted chocolate and a pecan! they were delicious. the mulberries provided these little bursts of tartness amidst the sweetness of the chocolate. and with all those anti-oxidants in there...what a perfect excuse to eat more!

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

coconut spelt and wholewheat loaf cake

ok, this was a serious venture into the unknown. an experiment into true healthiness. i have had next to no experience with spelt flour and pretty limited experience with wholewheat flour so this really was a journey into virgin territory. my friend who's kitchen i have been commandeering requested a healthy alternative to my loaf cake and who am i to refuse, i mean after all i am using their oven, mixer, sieve and spatula!

so i stuck to the usual loaf cake recipe with some alterations - instead of self-raising and plain flour, i worked with spelt and wholewheat. added some baking powder. then replaced sugar with agave syrup and added freshly grated coconut and vanilla powder (i never even knew there was such a thing!) and the end result...a lovely looking loaf cake! taste-wise this was very interesting. the texture was slightly crumbly and i think next time i would add more agave syrup because it could also have been a little sweeter. it was still moist and had a slight chewy consistency with the presence of the coconut. the spelt flour adds a very particular taste but it all comes together and when you know that it is a healthier alternative, you enjoy it even more. it certainly encourages me to experiment more with healthier flours and sugar alternatives and make some of those ever-so-fattening cupcakes a tad more gentle on the waistline!

the recipe...

250 g soft unsalted butter
5 Tbsp agave syrup
3 large eggs
200 g wholewheat flour
100g spelt flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp vanilla powder
150g fresh grated coconut
4 tablespoons milk
loaf tin

cream the butter, adding the syrup when it’s really soft, and creaming both together till pale and smooth and light.
sift together the flours and baking powder.
beat in the eggs one at a time, folding in a spoonful of the flour after each addition, then add the vanilla.
fold in the rest of the flour and finally add the coconut.
thin the batter with the milk - you’re after a soft, dropping consistency - and pour into the waiting greased tin.
pop it in the oven, and cook for 45 mins, or until a cake-tester comes out clean.
leave to cool on a wire rack in its tin, unmould and devour shamelessly - this time you can because it is more healthy!

i'm entering this for the culinarty original recipe round-up so check out the event if you have a favourite original recipe!

Monday, 6 October 2008

at long last...back in the kitchen with lemon chamomile cupcakes!

lucky me, lucky me...i was invited to a close friend's place over a long weekend we had here and guess what? he has an oven. it was like christmas, easter, birthday and all the other yearly celebrations coming in one great thigh-slapping whammo of an extravaganza. i was ecstatic! and so i was given free-reign in the kitchen to create, bake, explore and just enjoy the feel of the soft flour, cold butter and grainy sugar between my fingers again! ahhh, i have missed it so much. i contemplated just chaining myself to the oven and never leaving but alas, the call of duty forced my return back to my ovenless abode.

so my first creation...lemon camomile cupcakes. i adore the relaxing effect camomile has and i have often squeezed a bit of lemon into a cup of the tea to enhance the flavour. so i figured that a combo of lemon and camomile has got to go well together! and these were...light and fluffy with the tangy lemon icing...these are similar to the previous camomile cupcakes i made the only difference was the icing which was simply icing sugar and lemon juice mixed together until the desired consistency was reached. simply spoon it on...enough so that you get that mouth-watering drip effect as the icing hardens on it's way south. perfection in every bite!

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

a caramel-icious surprise!

i love surprises...and never more than when they come in the shape of something delightfully edible like these caramel cinnamon cookies! they were left at the gate of my house yesterday all wrapped up in tin foil by Toby, one of the staff children residing on the campus and his one request was that i might put them on my how could i possibly disappoint and even more so after i tasted them! they were delicious! buttery and moist, with just enough of a hint of cinnamon but then that sticky caramel on top that was just something i could have eaten on its own (my teeth might not have enjoyed that though!)
so thank you, Toby for ending my day with such a lovely wrapped up surprise and i look forward to sampling many more of your yummy creations!

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

oreo cheesecake...still 'no baked'... but still good!

a variation on a theme for you...this is similar to the previous post in that the basic cheesecake recipe is the same. the only difference - substitute the digestive biscuits for the oreos...and add a little more butter as the oreos are very dry and need more butter to keep them together and stop them from crumbling. make the cheesecake itself the same with the cream cheese, ricotta and honey and add chopped oreos to this. spread on top and bob's your uncle (well he probably isn't) and fanny's your aunt (most definitely not) but you get the idea, right?
i sprinkled some cocoa on top and i must say that this was a very rich cheesecake. it was good that i cut it up into bars because a moderate square was ample enough for dessert. the cheesecake seemed to set better this time and i wonder whether the addition of the oreos helped this. it was yummy and really hit the spot...filling a huge chocolate craving. the best part - i invited several teachers over after lunch and shared it all with them...when you're living in the jungle, it's all about the treats...and with the nearest cake shop about 30 minutes away, well you can imagine it went down pretty well!

Sunday, 10 August 2008

no bake strawberry cheesecake

so the 'no-bake' mission continues with gusto...and what's on the menu for today? well who can resist a bit of cheesecake now and again! i do love cheesecake and have tried a few flavours and variations in my time. so i found a no bake cheesecake recipe and thought i'd give it a go. the recipe again was pretty can't go too wrong. just cream cheese, ricotta, honey and some lemon rind (which i didn't have and so had to replace with lime rind), a biscuit base and strawberries on top. easy-peasy! pop it in the fridge and leave to delicately firm up and it did too! very nicely. the taste of the cheesecake was incredibly light and creamy - so don't go looking for your super firm baked cheesecake texture, this is more on the side of mousse consistency or the cream sheese part of tiramisu. but the whole thing comes together so nicely - the crumbly biscuit base (for which i splurged and bought digestives for...they are SO expensive here!) the light creamy cheese and the sweet strawberries. a perfect afternoon tea delight!

No-Bake Strawberry Cheesecake Bars

Time: 20 minutes, plus 1 hour’s chilling
10 digestive biscuits, crushed
5 tablespoons melted butter
1 8-ounce package cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup ricotta cheese
2 tablespoons honey, or to taste
Rind of a lemon, freshly grated
Pinch salt
About 1 1/2 cups strawberries

1. Combine crushed biscuits with melted butter. press into a pan to form a crust about 1/4-inch thick. Put in refrigerator until ready to use.
2. Using a standing or hand mixer, or a whisk, combine cream cheese, ricotta, honey, lemon rind and salt, and blend until smooth.
3. Spread cheese mixture carefully and evenly over crust, using a spatula or butter knife to smooth top. Cover with fresh strawberries and chill for at least an hour, or until set.

Cut into squares or bars and serve.

Yield: 8 to 12 servings.

Thursday, 7 August 2008

no bake fudge biscuits

so what does one do when one cannot doesn't bake but instead scours the internet for recipes that involve 'no baking' and what a plethora of recipes there are out there! i wanted to start with something simple, but yet that would have the maximum enjoyment factor and seriously taste good! so i went with a no bake fudge biscuit recipe. ok so naturally it was prizes for getting through this recipe without a hitch but it was just comforting to be able to be in my kitchen and create something.

so what do you do...

No Bake Chocolate Fudge Biscuits

3/4 c. butter

1/2 c. sugar

4 T. cocoa powder

2 T. milk (i used soya milk)

1 large packet of marie biscuits

melt the butter, sugar, cocoa powder and milk in a saucepan until the ingredients are combined. add biscuits and then spoon into a baking tin. pop in the fridge (or freezer depending on how long you're willing to wait!) and then cut into squares. devour shamelessly, of course!

yes, it's that easy! and the taste? very good, seriously more-ish and just a great chocolate pick me up to have in the fridge at those moments when you need...well a pick me up! you could definitely experiment with these by adding raisins, peanuts or chocolate chips. it might also be fun to try and make some healthy granola versions that would be good for breakfast. i could see this happening by using honey instead of the sugar. there's definitely a lot you can do with it! but fear not, i shall not bore you with posts of the next 20 different versions that i try...nope, i shall be moving onto other no bake investigations until the staff village here where i am living in Bali has built the communal oven that we have been promised. it's going to be an amazing project - an adobe oven that will be built by the community and will use wood. i can see there being a few disasters but otherwise it will be exciting to experiment with a truly earthy oven!

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

cupcake-shaped brioche!

a new-found friend followed a recommendation for a restaurant in Sanur and as a 'thank you' for a most enjoyable dinner there, brought me back a gift. And you know what's weird, she had no idea i am a cupcake freak, but guess what she brought me? some cupcake-shaped brioche! they are too cute for words and were absolutely deliciously divine. soft and buttery, and to make it all so much more sinful, i toasted them over my newly bought toaster and sliced thick chunks of butter and popped them inside. oh yummy-ness! they made such a perfect breakfast treat!

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

more indonesian kue...

the fun and deliciousness continues with more indonesian kue...and again a combination of sweet and savoury for you to inspect. someone asked me today whether i preferred the sweet or savoury kue and to be honest it is a really hard choice. both in my humble opinion, are equally enjoyable and cover a different taste bud...

first up we have kroket. this is a lovely potato cake type of kue that has some pureed vegetables mixed in and a green chilli padi stuck in the top. the outside is coated with breadrcumbs and the whole thing is fried. the taste is fantastic. a lovely little savoury potato cake that is given a real kick with the addition of the chilli on top.

then there is kue pisang, which is banana cake. a lovely moist little cake that even has a slice of banana on top. the cake is speckled with banana bits and is a perfect sized bite of cake!

last but not least we have another type of kue sus...similar to the one in my previous post this has a custard in the middle, but rather than the choux pastry of a profiterole, this one is a kind of puff pastry. it's sprinkled with sugar and shaped like an ice-cream cone. the custard is light and creamy and combines perfectly with the more dry puff pastry.

so what's next...

Monday, 4 August 2008

little cakes - indonesian style

i am fascinated by the whole aspect of indonesian 'kue' here. kue is the word for cake in bahasa indonesia - the language spoken here and it encompasses a vast array of cakes, from your regular kind of birthday-type cake to the weird and wonderful, savoury and sweet, all shapes and sizes! so today i had the opportunity to get my fingers on some and thought i'd share with you how they eat cake on this side of the planet...

kue here in indonesia are often served wrapped up in banana leaves. and this is not purely for the aesthetic aspect but rather the kue are prepared, wrapped up in the banana leaf and then steamed. the first one i tried was called lemper ayam. and although ayam means chicken and thus this is a more savoury delight, it is still called kue. the spiced chicken was surrounded by sticky rice and the overall taste was surprisingly pleasing - the blandness and sticky consistency of the rice was immediately uplifted by the soft, spiced chicken in the centre. very tasty!

next up was kue dadar gulung and this was almost like a spring roll but sweet - it involved a thin black rice pancake with sweet banana inside. again it was interesting the contrast of the rather bland pancake with the sweet banana filling. the consistency of the banana was quite chewy and i believe it is a certain kind of banana they use for this. here in indonesia there is a vast array of bananas available at the market and each one used for a different purpose.

next came the kue sus and this was rather like a cream puff...a soft choux pastry exterior and a creamy custard like filling. it was soft and very melt in your mouth. delicious!

and there you have it...some charmingly delicious local delights for your consideration!

Monday, 28 July 2008

a little cupcake caper!

oh, i had such great plans for a huge blogoversary celebration - with dreams of tasting as many cupcakes as i could get my fingers on but alas, i did not get them on as many as i would have liked! the time flew by in singapore and with so many things to do, i missed out on testing all those cupcakes i wanted to. so, with a hint of regret, i share with you the ones that didn't get away. i visited two places and tasted two cupcakes in each. so please accept my humble mini blogoversary celebration instead...

first stop...
Paisley & Cream #01-09 The Central (above Clarke Quay MRT Station)
Tel: 6534 7962
Opening Hours :10am to 9pm (Sunday to Thursday) and 10am to midnight (Fridays and Saturdays)

first thing that struck me was the decor...very...umm, 'twee' if you get what i mean - there was a chandelier and interesting alice in wonderland-vinyl covered type furniture. most of the tables were only for two people so it would not be conducive to going with a group. there was a good array of cupcakes and flavours on offer, but for me presentation was very poor. the cupcakes did not match the 'poshness' of the decor. i mean, come on, some of the cupcakes were sprinkled with dinosaur sprinkles and what looked like conjoined pumpkins! so weird and very kid-like. i would definitely have preferred some sophisticated swirls as an adult eating a cupcake. i tried two flavours - the double chocolate (because i heard it was to die for) and the peanut butter. other flavours included oreo, toblerone, red velvet, mango and caramel - i felt the labels displaying the flavours could have been typed out, they were handwritten and looked unprofessional and messy.

the peanut butter cupcake was not a big hit with me - the cupcake itself was dry and did not taste of peanut butter at all while the icing, if you can call it that was mildly flavoured and the consistency rather than being icing-like seemed more like pastry cream. i wouldn't bother with this again.

then came double chocolate - and believe me this lived up to every single word of the favourable reviews i read about it. it was delicious - a rich chocolate flavour, a soft moist cake and a delicious chocolate cream piped on top. the decoration for this was also simple but effective and i must say that presentation was good, with the little bit of piped cream on the side and a sprinkling of cocoa. i would eat this 10 times over - if i had the appetite for it!

second stop...
Cedele Bakery Frankel Avenue 115 Frankel Avenue
Tel: (65) 6243 2056 Fax: (65) 6243 3272
Opening hours : Mon - Sun/Public Holidays:8.00am to 7.00pm

this was a very simple bakery. no flamboyant decor to detract from the food. there were some tables and chairs both inside and out. the walls were a bit dull and the floor was just concrete...a simple splash of colour wouldn't have gone astray. there was a variety of baked goods on offer ranging from scones and muffins to loaves of bread. i choose a blueberry crumble muffin and a vanilla sand cupcake.

the bluberry crumble muffin was good. it had a fantastic crumble topping that i simply have to replicate when i'm back in the kitchen. i liked the way it encompassed pecans in it and was moist. i think there was a lot of brown sugar in it. the muffin itself was loaded with blueberries and very more-ish. a great breakfast treat that would keep you going until lunch.

the vanilla sand cupcake was interesting. the cake itself was a little dry and a rather crumbly texture. it was overall quite sweet and this was enhanced by the icing. i did like the sprinkling of coconut on top and this was perhaps the saving grace. not sure where the name came from though...does the coconut look like vanilla sand?

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

i'm leaving on a jet plane...

ok my fellow cupcakers, great bakers and master seems i have been keeping a secret from you all and that big news is that by the time you read this post i will have left the gloomy shores of Ireland for the forseeable future. yes that's right! i have accepted a job at an amazing school called Green School in Bali, Indonesia. i am spending 3 days in the Lion City that is Singapore to pick up my employment visa for Indonesia and i will arrive in Bali on the 26th july. so i'm all packed up and ready to go.
naturally there will be some settling in and adjusting to new life, it's been 10 years since i last lived in Bali and lots of things have changed, so until i can get my spatula and whisk out again and get baking (there might even be the opportunity for me to sell some cupcakes while i'm there - a good friend owns a cafe in Bali - but more about that later) i will still try and post about visits to restaurants and food in general in Bali. and hopefully it won't be long before i'm back in the kitchen and baking up a storm.
meanwhile, if you want to see what i'm up to in Bali then you gotta come over and check out my blog charting my adventures there ~always look on the Bali side of life~ and learn a little bit more about the Beautiful And Lovely Island that is Bali.
so please forgive the hiatus in cupcakes for now, but know that my itchy fingers will be just dying to experiment with all those wonderful asian fruits, spices and herbs and i promise i will not let you all down. it will be worth the wait!

Sunday, 20 July 2008

quinoa and apple cupcakes...a healthy kickstart to the day!

quinoa is a powerful little seed. its nutritional value is superb and i think everyone should find their own way of including it in their diet. as wikipedia says...

quinoa has come to be highly appreciated for its nutritional value, as its protein content is very high (12%–18%), making it a healthy choice for vegetarians and vegans. Unlike wheat or rice (which are low in lysine), quinoa contains a balanced set of essential amino acids for humans, making it an unusually complete protein source.[5] It is a good source of dietary fiber and phosphorus and is high in magnesium and iron. Quinoa is gluten free and considered easy to digest.

i usually eat it as part of a salad with chopped tomatoes, cucumber and spring onion and lots of fresh herbs like coriander, mint and basil. add to this some fresh lemon juice, soya sauce and salt and pepper and i have a salad that i can eat with anything or just eat on its own. however, i have wanted to experiment with it in a sweet dish and of course the natural choice is a cupcake.

i searched on the internet and thought i would try something already tested for my first go. so i followed a recipe i found on the blog, Cupcake Project. the recipe was pretty straightforward and i didn't really alter much - just used regular flour instead of rice flour, mainly because i didn't have rice flour and wasn't fussed about making these gluten-free. i liked the idea of including stewed apples in the middle of each cupcake. a cooked in filling sure beats the time it takes to cut out cones, fill and then ice. the recipe called for cooked quinoa which i proceeded to do using the rice cooker. quinoa is really simple to cook and you just use the ratio of 1:2 that's 1 cup of uncooked quinoa to 2 cups of water.

so what was the result...hmmm, i'm a little undecided on this one. i can't say that it ranks up there with my favourites. the taste is interesting...the quinoa adds a real texture to the cupcake that i guess i'm just not used to. the stewed apples were barely tastable and this was disappointing - if i make these again i would definitely make more stewed apples and have a bigger spoon of it in each cupcake. i did find the cake texture quite dry and definitely think the suggestion on the recipe to perhaps add the stewed apples straight into the batter a good idea. it might just add that little bit more moisture to the finished result. i definitely think i will experiment again with cooked quinoa but next time i might try it in a chocolate cupcake...i could never give up so easily on such a nutritionally powerful little seed and ways to include it in my diet. these however would definitely start your day off with a serious blast of protein and a huge sugar rush. i used the recipe for the icing also given called penuche icing which was made with brown sugar...but again i cannot say that i am a big fan. i found it very sweet and might have preferred a cream cheese of even a vanilla buttercream. however, it is good to experiment and explore new flavours and so i look forward to more explorations with the wondrous quinoa.

Thursday, 17 July 2008

lovely lavender-licious cupcakes!

i love lavender...i have always, always found it so incredibly relaxing. i love a few drops sprinkled on my pillow to help me sleep at night, i love lavender body cream, i love english lavender perfume every so often sprayed in my wardrobe and delicately scenting my clothes. lavender is pure goodness, uninterrupted serenity, the height of calmness and peace. in making these cupcakes and perusing the internet i have found so many uses for lavender and i am so excited because i would just love to make my own lavender facial scrub, lavender salt, lavender sunburn treatment...i want to be more in charge of what i am putting in and on my body. i think making your own herbal remedies and cosmetics is really empowering. it feels good to scrub your face with something that is pure and natural. i really want to do that more.

so my journey in baking and experimenting with herbs continues...and with such a love for lavender i have wanted to make lavender cupcakes for so long. so i started a couple of days ago with making the lavender sugar. so what did i end up doing? i just blitzed sugar and lavender buds in the food processor until it resembled fine powdery sugar. perfect! and then just used as normal sugar. i was disappointed that there wasn't a stronger aroma of lavender filling the kitchen...but then again i don't want the cupcakes to taste like soap so perhaps that was a good thing (anyway i got the aroma later on when i dried sprigs of lavender in the oven on a baking tray to put on top...bliss!)

for the icing i just decided on a very simple icing sugar mixed with milk and almost had a cupcake-tastrophe when i initially spooned on icing that was too runny and it started to drip down INSIDE the paper and cause the paper to peel itself off...yikes...couldn't have thickened up the icing and it was fine (this of course wouldn't have happened if i'd used my regular cupcakes cases...but sometimes the traditional frilly ones are so cute.)

i popped the dried sprigs on top and the simple but so pure. i love the deep purple of the lavender against that lovely white icing. i'm feeling calm just looking at the cupcakes. these cupcakes are for everyone out there this week who is in need of tender loving care, peace, serenity, calm and relaxation. take some time to enjoy a quiet moment. be kind to yourself. you are a child of the universe and deserve nothing but the best. with lots of lavender love x

Lavender Cupcakes (adapted from Forever Summer)

1 cup self-rising flour
1/2 cup very soft butter
9 tbsp. lavender sugar, sifted (I recommend returning some of the petals to the batter)
2 eggs
1-2 tbsp milk
1-2 cups icing sugar
culinary lavender to decorate

Preheat the oven to whatever works best for you.
Mix together the butter and sugar until smooth, then add the eggs one at a time, until completely blended.
Add the flour and mix gently.
Add the milk as needed to reach the right consistency.
Line a muffin pan with 10-12 paper liners and distribute the batter equally.
Bake for 15-20 minutes, until done.
When the cupcakes are cool, decorate with icing made by mixing icing sugar with milk so that it is a thick consistency...enough so it will just drop from the spoon (not too runny).
sprinkle with lavender petals.

eat, relax, know you deserve it!

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

the countdown to my first blogoversary...

i've just found the most fabulous widget...a countdown for your blog's 'blogoversary' and do you see, do you see? mine is coming very, very soon - 12 days to be precise. so plans are already in the making on how i will be celebrating cupcake blogging for a whole year! can't say too much now, but it definitely won't be all about me in the tick off those days and stay tuned...
meanwhile if you wanna countdown to your the little widget above and start counting down to your blogs special day!

lavender sugar in the making...

i have wanted to make lavender sugar for ages now and just recently got round to picking some fresh lavender growing in the garden and popping it into a cup of sugar. now here is where the dilemma starts...after searching through various recipes for making lavender sugar i see there are quite a few alternatives. some recipes just call for letting the oils of the lavender infuse into the sugar and then removing the flowers while others state that you can blitz the flowers and sugar and create the lavender sugar that way. or i'm wondering if i can just add the sugar into a cupcake recipe as is so the cupcakes will be specked with lavender buds.
anyone out there who can provide any feedback on any method that they've tried? spill the beans, ok and let me know what has worked for you.
meanwhile the little buds are happily nestling amongst the sugar grains...permeating...ommm!

*update...a few hours later...i have just opened the jar and taken a sneaky whiff...and the smell is enough to start me's so relaxing!*

Monday, 14 July 2008

chinese five spice chocolate loaf cake

chinese five spice powder is amazing! i mean the spicy aromatic smell of it is already enough to warm the cockles of your heart, no mind actually adding it to your food. it's a combination of fennel, star anise, cinnamon, black pepper and cloves. well this one is! i've seen other combinations where the black pepper is replaced with cardamom. anyway, i've seen it paired with chocolate once or twice and wanted to give it a go myself. i also wanted to use up that one remaining bar of salted chocolate that i still had in the cupboard. so i settled on a chinese five spice chocolate loaf cake.

i used the recipe that i've used in past loaf cake creations but with a few minor alterations - most obviously replacing some of the flour with cocoa powder! then i chopped up the salted chocolate and put it in as chocolate chips. i added about 2 tablespoons of five spice powder - i always get that moment it too much or too little? but cross my spatulas and hope for the best. in this case, 2 tablespoons was just right for my liking. the flavours in five spice powder are pretty strong individually - when you put them altogether...whew! too much and you might just be five-spiced out for the rest of the year.

i topped it off with some melted dark and white chocolate. and had so much fun hoping that each drip would cool before they reached the bottom of the cake!

overall, i was quite content with the did seem to take longer to cook than the rosemary loaf cake i have made before and as such i might have left it in a tad longer than i wanted too. i felt the texture of the cake should have been a little moister and less crumbly. perhaps i could have also added a few more tablespoons of milk to the batter before baking to compensate for the addition of the cocoa powder. i'm thinking that even if this had not been baked until the tester came out clean, it still would have been fine as it would have been extra moist and maybe slightly gooey and that can only be a good thing when it comes to chocolate. however, everyone at home enjoyed it immensely, commenting on how the five spice powder seemed to enhance the flavour of the chocolate and bring a nice spiciness to the cake.

Chinese Five Spice Chocolate Loaf Cake

250 g soft unsalted butter
200 g golden caster sugar
3 large eggs
300g plain flour (minus 4 T flour)
3 T baking powder
4 T cocoa powder
2 T chinese five spice powder
1 t vanilla extract
4 T milk
half cup chocolate chips
loaf tin

cream the butter, adding the sugar when it’s really soft, and creaming both together till pale and smooth and light.
combine and sift flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and five spice powder into a bowl.
beat in the eggs one at a time, folding in a spoonful of the flour mix after each addition, then add the vanilla.
fold in the rest of the flour mix.
add chocolate chips.
thin the batter with the milk - you’re after a soft, dropping consistency - and pour into the waiting tin.
put it in the oven, and cook for 1 hour, or until a cake-tester comes out clean.
leave to cool on a wire rack in its tin, unmould and devour shamelessly!