Monday, 31 March 2008

lights, camera, action...devil's food cupcakes go to the movies

i am so tired that i can hardly keep my eyes open to post this. i have had such a hectic weekend but still managed to squeeze in some do i do it??? if this isn't love then i don't know what is.

my reason for being so tired is because i have spent the weekend with my younger brother and his college classmates on a movie shoot. my brothers movie was chosen as one of the films to get made out of his class as part of his final year in his degree and in his script were two boys. and so, well, being a speech and drama teacher he thought i would be an ideal candidate to be their chaperone as well as coach them on the set to help them perform. so saturday and sunday, i have been with these two boys non-stop and taken care of them. however, it was great fun. the boys were fun and pretty easy to look after and they performed really well on both days. the shoot on saturday was at one of his classmates house, but today it was here.

so when i got home last night (despite starting to feel tired) i took out my mixer and thought i'd make some themed cupcakes to give all the crew and cast for lunch (along with an excellent chicken curry made by my hubby!) the cupcakes went down a treat and were just what the doctor ordered for a cold, long day of filming outdoors with the unpredictable irish weather - we had sun, rain, hail and wind! chocolate is so good for keeping energy levels up! and of course, i couldn't help but make them a little movie-themed with some sugar fondant and those famous words that seemed to be so associated with movies. i even had a part as an extra in a funeral scene!

i really admire all of the crew. they worked so hard and i really had the opportunity to see what really goes into making a movie and this was just a short imagine what the big guys have to do! and so, they were certainly deserving of some movie cupcakes. next stop the oscars...

Friday, 28 March 2008

black bottom cupcakes...are we being politically correct?

i've always thought 'black bottom cupcakes' were very interestingly named. i mean, why black bottom and not white top or heaven forbid, white breast? in this day and age of political correctness perhaps they are in need of a rename!

my personal reason for making these is much more rude and see i'm married to a malay singaporean who comes from boyanese ancestry. the boyanese have their own language which my mother-in-law speaks fluently with her relatives. it's pretty different to regular malay and when i first met my husband i asked him to teach me some. well, boys being boys (or should i say boy-anese being boy-anese) he taught me the very things that one should never say to ones mother-in-law in their native language! the first thing he taught me was black bottom!!!!! (and yes, i still went ahead and married him) so the boyanese for black bottom is burik na celeng. well, we're going to chill out with some friends of ours later this evening and she is also singaporean (not boyanese though) anyway when i first told her that my husband was of boyanese descent...what did she say? but burik na celeng! amazing! it's like the ONE phrase that anyone who is not boyanese knows in boyanese. so, in my own deranged, weird sense of humour way, i have made burik na celeng cupcakes to bring over to her place! i'm sure she'll enjoy them because she has a great sense of humour.

ok, now down to the nitty-gritty of making them. i read a bit on the internet about black bottom cupcakes and the various disasters that can occur (always best to be prepared for the worst!) but actually they didn't really help that much. i made the recipe from vanilla garlic's blog as it was and divided up the cream cheese mix...adding blackberry jam to one half and white chocolate chips to the other. spooned the cream cheese on top of the chocolate cupcake batter and popped them in the oven. the cupcakes rose up nicely and then when i took them out depressed a little in the middle (which i was expecting) but overall i think that these are not the most attractive looking cupcakes that one can make - maybe i added too much cream cheese to the top of each one. but they sure make up for the lack of beauty in the taste department. chocolate and baked cheesecake is just so good together. really really good. my brother just polished off three straight, one after the other...i wish i had a high metabolic rate...some things are just not fair!

Thursday, 27 March 2008

afternoon tea cupcakes with earl grey, raspberry jam and lemon cream...yummy!

don't know about you...but i simply LOVE earl grey tea and have done for years. i just love the distinct flavour of it explained by wikipedia :

Earl Grey tea is a tea blend with a distinctive flavour and aroma derived from the addition of oil extracted from the rind of the bergamot orange, a fragrant citrus fruit.

i also thought i'd check out the benefits of drinking earl grey tea and found some interesting ones :

Key health benefits of Earl Grey

· Bergamot has been documented as a useful and healing fruit in 12th century Europe

· The Italians used bergamot for treating fever and intestinal worms

· Bergamot's main properties are as a disinfectant and an antidepressant

· The esters and alcohols present in bergamot reduce anxiety by calming the nervous system

· The active components in bergamot are antiseptic, germicidal as well as relaxing

· The catechin and fluoride content of black tea prevent tooth decay, while the antiseptic properties of bergamot can alleviate halitosis and oral infections

· Contains beneficial amounts of caffeine that helps you to think clearly

· The bergamot content fights flu, fevers and colds

so seeing as i'm such a fan the thought of earl grey infused cupcakes would naturally appeal to me. once i thought about how i would like to infuse the earl grey tea into the cupcakes, then i had to think about what i would like to go with the flavour...and that's when it struck me...afternoon tea cupcakes with all the elements of a good afternoon tea encompassed in the cupcake itself! and this is the afternoon tea cupcake consisting of an earl grey cake, raspberry jam filling and lemon buttercream icing! simply perfect!
i tried to use the middle bit to make the cupcakes more like butterfly cakes! this is an homage to my youth when i usually always had butterfly cakes for birthdays. somehow though, my butterfly wings seemed a tad more chunky than those of my youth (maybe due to the fact that i was being greedy and cut such a big cone out wanting to fill it up with lovely raspberry jam - that will teach me!)
i used my vanilla cupcake recipe which you can find here but infused the milk with the earl grey tea. i did this simply by warming up the milk, putting two earl grey tea bags into the milk and then leaving it aside for 10 minutes. two tea bags gave a subtle result, but next time i'd probably use three or four just because i love the flavour. then i made the recipe as written. the tea turned the batter a darker colour which i liked and i could smell the earl grey distinct aroma as they came out of the oven. this has been a great experiment for me because i think using this method, you can probably infuse the flavour of any of your favourite teas into a cupcake...the possibilities on this one are endless so i must get out there and buy some boxes of all those amazing tea flavours they now sell in supermarkets.
the rest was easy...leave them to cool, cut out your cone shape from the top of the cupcake, fill with a teaspoon of your favourite jam and top with lemon buttercream. don't forget to replace those wings!
lastly but most importantly...enjoy with a dainty little cup of your favourite tea. and so, at that, i'm off to stick the kettle on. earl grey anyone?

Sunday, 23 March 2008

a return to the traditional - easter simnel cupcakes

so, i wanted to bake something traditional for easter and saw a segment on one of the morning tv shows on how to make simnel cake. when i delved a little bit further i found this about simnel cake on wikipedia...

Simnel cake is a light fruit cake, similar to a Christmas cake, covered in marzipan, and eaten at Easter in England and Ireland. A layer of marzipan or almond paste is also baked into the middle of the cake. On the top of the cake, around the edge, are eleven marzipan balls to represent the true apostles of Jesus; Judas is omitted. In some variations Christ is also represented, by a ball placed at the centre.

The cake is made from these ingredients: white flour, sugar, butter, eggs, fragrant spices, dried fruits, zest and candied peel.

Simnel cakes have been known since mediaeval times, and were originally a Mothering Sunday tradition, when young girls in service would make one to be taken home to their mothers on their day off. The word simnel probably derived from the Latin word simila, meaning fine, wheaten flour with which the cakes were made. A legend, however, attributes the cake's creation to the English pretender Lambert Simnel, who supposedly devised it during the time in which he was forced to work in Henry VII's kitchens.

this sounded perfect and i liked the idea that it was used traditionally for easter. my mum is a big fruitcake fan and she especially wanted some. i found a recipe from Odlums that looked good and set to work. the recipe was easy to follow and easy to make. once i'd made the batter i rolled out the marzipan and cut out shapes to put into the middle of the cupcake. divided up the batter, spooned in a tablespoon of batter, placed the rolled out marzipan and then another tablespoon on top. the cupcake case was pretty much full to the top at this point because these do not rise very much so make sure you fill them to where you want them to end up! this is what they looked like when thy came out of the oven....

they smelled so good, really rich and spicy and filled the whole house with their aroma. wonderful! i must admit that i was a bit worried about the baking time because it is hard to judge when these are done. i just went by their golden brown-ness on top because the toothpick test doesn't really apply here as the cake is so full of fruit. while they were cooling i rolled out the second batch of marzipan and placed these on top. then popped them back in the oven to bake the marzipan for about 5 minutes. it said in the recipe that you should bake them until the tops are brown but i didn't want the marzipan to be brown-looking. that didn't seem to appeal to me and i thought it wouldn't look so pretty. so i took them out just after 5 minutes to make sure.

once out of the oven i decorated them my style. again the original recipe said that you can make 11 marzipan balls to decorate the top, to represent the disciples and leave one empty for Judas, but i didn't wanna overkill on the marzipan, so i used chocolate eggs instead and added some little sugar decorations around the edge. it definitely made them more easter-like too.

we were supposed to save these for after easter lunch today but i went out for a walk and came back and was feeling a tad peckish, so in cahoots with my mum, we cut one up and tried it...oh, it was just delicious. oh, so, fruity and moist and just enough marzipan to enhance the whole flavour of the fruitcake. i loved it, but then i DO like fruitcake and yet i know that a lot of people are not big fans. but this, rather than tasting like rich christmas cake, reminded me more of christmas stollen - especially with that layer of marzipan in the middle. it was light fruitcake, not heavy and alcohol-laden. so good with a nice mug of tea and just delightfully fruuuuuuuuuity! Happy Easter!

Easter Simnel Cupcakes

150g/5oz Odlums Cream Plain Flour
125g/4oz Butter (room temperature)
125g/4oz Light Brown Sugar
3 Eggs (beaten)
1/2 teaspoon Mixed Spice
Grated Rind of a Lemon
1 tablespoon Brandy or Rum (optional)
500g packet Shamrock Luxury Fruit Mix (consisting of currants, raisins, candied peel, cherries)
2 tablespoons Apricot Jam to glaze cupcakes (i used marmalade and it was fine!)
2 x 250g packets of Almond Marzipan

Preheat oven to 190°C/375°F/Gas 5. Line muffin tins with paper cases.
Cream butter and sugar together until smooth. Gradually beat in the eggs.
Add flour, lemon rind and mixed spice. Gently stir until well combined.
Finally mix in the fruit and brandy or rum.
Divide half the mixture into the paper cases. Take half the marzipan, roll out and cut into circles, place onto the fruit.
Top marzipan circles with remaining mixture. Bake for about 25 minutes until risen and golden brown.
Meanwhile, roll out other half of marzipan and cut out 12 circles and shape out 11 balls.

Saturday, 22 March 2008

easter nest cupcakes - a celebration of all things spring!

so there are a number of easter baking challenges this month in the world of food blogs and i wanted to submit an entry....ta da! here it easter nest cupcake. i had so much fun making this and hey, that's what it should all be about. plus it was so fun finding all those beautiful spring flowers to photograph it with too!

i'm entering this for Master Baker March Challenge, Easter Cake Bake and the Spring Funny Cuppy. Seems a lot but, what the heck, might as well max the little delight out seeing as it was so much fun to make.
now for the recipe...

Caramel Cupcakes

cupcake :
100g white chocolate
125g butter
2/3 c. brown sugar
1/4 c. golden syrup
2/3 c. milk
1 c. plain flour
1/3 c. self-raising flour
1 egg

preheat your oven to whatever usually works best for you. line your cupcake pan.
combine chocolate, butter, sugar, syrup and milk in a double boiler. stir untel melted and combined.
allow to cool.
sift flour and mix into caramel mixture.
stir in egg.
divide the mixture and bake for 30 mins.
makes 12 cupcakes.

icing :
4oz butter
1 t. vanilla extract
2 - 2 1/2 c. icing sugar, sifted
1/4 c. milk
in an electric mixer beat butter until soft. add vanilla essence. add in icing sugar gradually making sure it is properly combined, alternating with milk. add enough to reach a good spreading consistency.

decorations :
chocolate mini eggs
cadbury's flake
fondant roses and leaves

assembly :
spread a layer of icing on the cupcake. break up the flake and pile around the outside. use some icing to attach roses and leaves to edges of nest. put in the mini eggs and sprinkle remaining flake to cover any empty spots.

dare to devour! it's hard because it looks too pretty!

p.s. read what Baking Delights had to say about these cupcakes here! thanks for the special mention :)

that which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet - easter cupcakes to go!

lo and behold, my little pink roses finally grace cupcakes. these were ordered by a friend for her easter sunday lunch tomorrow. i'm so happy with the way they turned out. i used a caramel cupcake recipe, vanilla buttercream icing and sugar fondant and chocolate eggs for the decorations.
i shall be meeting her later to pass them to her and hope she likes them! i'm still really enjoying the look of those pink roses...not bad for a first time using fondant, me thinks!

everything is coming up roses...

oh yes, i have been a busy little airy fairy in the kitchen today. i have an order for easter cupcakes to complete for tomorrow and i'm just so inspired for easter designs that i decided to get busy this afternoon and start making lovely fondant pink roses for the tops of my easter cupcakes. surprisingly they were quite easy to make. my mum helped out rolling the fondant into little balls and then flattening into petals. i found the whole process rather therapeutic to be honest. a most enjoyable process. anyway, once they were all done and on the plate, i COULD NOT miss the opportunity for some photos because i thought they looked so adorable waiting there...politely as roses do. so stay tuned to see where these charming little roses end up...shall be posting tomorrow about my order and also about my completed entry for easter bake-out competitions!

Friday, 21 March 2008

messy marshmallow cupcakes...ooey-gooey!

ok, so i was all excited about spending the evening in the kitchen. i'd stocked up at the local supermarket and was ready to prepare my entry for the cupcake-hero event hosted by quirky cupcake. her chosen ingredient this month was marshmallow and i'd been thinking about what to do. i was dreaming of a marshmallow-filled chocolate cupcake and marshmallow frosting.


i used a devil's food recipe that i have used umpteen times before and really like and then placed two mini-marshmallow in the middle and topped with more batter. the cupcakes were half full (even with the marshmallows) and i figured i'd end up with a lovely gooey marshmallow in the middle of my cupcake at the end....oh....SO WRONG! the marshmallows rose to the top of the cupcake and volcanically erupted out the top and then proceeded to make my devil's food batter ooze out everywhere...yikes! when i finally rescued them from anymore disaster in the oven, they looked....rather hideous!

my mum offered to taste one (brave lady!) and she said they were fine...but just that there was no more marshmallow left. ok, i figured i could hide the ugliness with a nice marshmallow frosting. i'd found a recipe on the internet that seemed fail safe. oh...SO WRONG AGAIN! (twice in one evening - i was beginning to feel like the evening was jinxed!


this was the recipe...

1 cup sugar
1 tsp cream of tartar
2 egg whites, unbeaten
1 dozen large marshmallows
1/4 tsp salt
3 tbsp water
1. Cut marshmallows into pieces. Set aside. Place other ingredients in top of double boiler.
2. Cook and stir quickly until sugar is dissolved and mixture turns white.
3. Remove from heat and add marshmallows.
4. When marshmallows become soft, place back over boiling water and heat until mixture stands in peaks.
5. Spread immediately on cake while still hot and let cool.

and what happened...well, my frosting didn't just kinda ooey-gooey'd around the bowl and never developed soft peaks...even after frantic beating that frankly has made my right arm look rather like arnie schwarzenegger's during the body building years! what a mess! even after i left it to cool for what seemed like the good part of a century, the stuff was still ooey-gooey. hmph! well, i didn't feel like wasting it and on tasting didn't seem so bad, so i just spooned it on and am hoping that by tomorrow it will have set a little.

so ho-hum to my dreams of a gorgeus spiky-frosted cupcake that would have looked like sid vicious (it was gonna be called the 'sid marshmallow-icious cupcake') and instead i was left with a flat, shiny, baldy cupcake (who is famously bald that i can name it after?) but i shall not be deterred...i will succeed in making the 'sid marshmallow-icious cupcake' if i have to make every darn marshmallow frosting i lay my hands on from here to eternity. i will succeed. 'sid, you will have your moment! i promise!'

Wednesday, 19 March 2008

nutty delights - lemon macadamia cupcakes

i'm still lovin' lemon these days and recently bought a bag of macadamia nuts from our local Sunday market and wanted to use them up. i modified an earlier recipe i used on my little lemon delights that orginally came from a blog called the cupcakery. i halved the recipe because i only wanted to make 12 and substituted 1/2 cup of the flour with ground macadamias and then also added in another 1/2 cup of roughly chopped macadamias.

i found that the ground macadamias added a nice nutty texture to the baked cupcake...more substance. i iced them with lemon cream cheese icing and experimented with decorations. i must admit that when it comes to mixing liquid food colouring, you never really know what final result you are going to get (is this just me, or do others have this problem?) i can't say i planned for the green that i finally ended up with, but anyway it did blend quite well with the yellow. i wonder whether paste food colouring is easier to blend or whether there are a lot of colour varieties on offer. they don't really sell the paste food colouring in supermarkets here, you have to go to specialist baking shops for that so i don't always get the chance to make it to town to buy them. i just have to cross fingers and hope for the best when i drip the drops in!

i was quite happy with the final result...the cupcake looks like it might not be too out of place on the table of Beatrix Potter...i don't why...maybe because of the colours. i loved Beatrix Potter as a child. all those tales of that scamp Peter Rabbit and the mischief he would get up to in Mr. McGregor's garden. he was such a lovable character. this is for him (though he probably wouldn't enjoy it half as much as his carrots!)

Tuesday, 18 March 2008

happy st. patrick's day at the parade in dublin!

samba man
cute as a cupcake!
purple delight
pretty in pink
technicolour dream
perfect princess

sob, sob, no, i didn't have the chance to go green in the kitchen today...i thought i would pass up the opportunity to fall into the guinness/bailey's-laden cupcake trap and instead take to the streets to see the annual st. paddy's day parade in dublin city and boy, am i glad i was fantastic. full of colours, vibrancy, music and wonderful characters...just great! although it was a sunny but chilly spring day, the rain stayed away and the energy of the paraders made up for any lack of warmth! seeing things like this can often provide great inspiration in baking (believe it or not!) as the designs and tones of the costumes encourage one to think of future icing decorations and possible colour combinations. i love getting inspiration from somewhere like this. the most interesting part of all though, is that even though i am irish, this is my first time to see the st. paddy's day parade live! before i either watched it on tv or was not living here. so why this year? well, my hubby and i just moved back to ireland end of last year and this was his first st. patrick's day in ireland and i bit the bullet and decided to brave the crowds and let his first st. paddy's day be a memorable one. and who knows...after the inspiration from this year's parade i might just be back again!

Saturday, 15 March 2008

thank crunchie cupcakes it's friday!

so this has been a real chocolate bar tribute week. first toblerone and now crunchie...yes, i also adore's that delicious honeycomb in the middle that gets me every time! so what better thing to do than chop up a few bars and see how they taste in a vanilla cupcake. i used the same recipe as the toblerone ones and just kinda higgledy-piggedly hacked up the crunchie bars with great gusto and tossed them into the batter (secreting a few crumbs along the way for myself) and then baked. when they came out of the oven it looked like the honeycomb had melted and left this lovely golden yellow tinge through the cupcakes. very pretty. i had some icing in the freezer left over from a previous batch - bailey's icing, so i added some chocolate to it and then spread it on. topped the little cups of temptation with some more chunks of crunchie bar and let the tasting begin...

opinions were definitely united by all who tasted...these are a keeper! to be made again when the crunchie craving comes around. when you bit into the cupcake you could see all the lovely bits of honeycomb throughout the cupcake and it looked so good. the taste was there of the crunchie (but being the addict i am, i feel i could have added more...i mean, c'mon, you can NEVER have too much crunchie!) the cake went great with the chocolate baileys icing and well, i could have eaten all of them...but self-restraint kicked in and i remembered that i do supposedly make these for others.

i think out of the two, i enjoyed the crunchie ones more...and i think it's because of the justs blends so well into the batter and provides you with this little surprise when you get a mouthful of it. the bits of honeycomb just melt in your mouth.

so my little chocolate bar week is over and next week i shall have to start delving into thoughts for Paddy's Day and Easter cupcakes. there are also a few food blog events coming up that i'd like to enter and need to get my baking cap on for those...such is the life of a currently unemployed (but soon to be employed) cupcake fanatic. i eat, sleep and think cupcakes! anyone interesting in joining a cupcakes anonymous group???

Seeing as this is my second time this week to use this recipe, i'm gonna post it below....

Vanilla Cupcakes

Makes 12 regular cupcakes

½ c. butter, at room temperature
2/3 c. sugar
3 large eggs
1 ½ tsp. vanilla extract
1 ½ c. all-purpose flour
1 ½ tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
½ c. milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with paper liners.
Cream the butter and sugar with an electric mixer on medium speed.
Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition.
Add the vanilla along with the last egg.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.
Add half the flour mixture to the butter and mix on medium speed.
Add the remaining flour and the milk, beat at medium speed, then increase to medium-high and beat until incorporated.
Add in your favourite chopped up chocolate bar - toblerone, crunchie...whatever takes your fancy!
Pour the batter into the muffin cups and bake for 18-22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean.
Cool for a few minutes in the pan, then remove the cakes and cool completely on a wire rack.

Wednesday, 12 March 2008

everyone's going fruit and nuts...even these toblerone cupcakes!

i am definitely going fruit and nutty because last week i discovered that the most wondrous of chocolate comes in a fruit and nut variety! how scrumptious! and by the way, how long has this been going on for without me knowing. i mean i am thinking of all those amazing fruit and nut toblerones that could have been shamelessly devoured by me and have missed out! anyway, when i tasted it, immediately i thought 'this would taste great in a cupcake'. and so today i set to work. i used a basic vanilla cupcake recipe for this one, because let's face it, toblerone speaks volumes on its very own. it does not need to be flavoured-out by a very strong tasting cupcake batter. so i made the cupcake batter as normal and then just chopped up a toblerone bar...nice and chunky and mixed it in. scooped into the cupcake cases and straight in the oven. nothing easier!
when they came out...e-yumm-ee! they smelled so good that i really had to struggle very hard not to just dig in immediately (however fortunately, some rogue cupcakes had risen too much (shame on them!) and needed a little de-cap-a-caking and so i got to whet my palate for the sinfulness to come later!)
i let them cool...then iced them with some vanilla buttercream and more chopped up toblerone...i mean i really had to make sure that i maxed out on the toblerone taste otherwise these little fellows were never going to live up to their famous name!
final result...tobler-iciously good! the lovely little nougat (are they nougat?) bits and the chocolate from the toblerone was just lovely! the toblerone had melted and the middle of the vanilla cupcake was all dark and moist with it. these are NOT just for the die-hard toblerone fan but anyone who wants to introduce themselves to the wonders of toblerone in the nicest of ways!

Monday, 10 March 2008

and the Blogger's Choice Award nomination goes to....

My site was nominated for Best Food Blog!
ME! yes, that's right, i've been nominated on the Blogger's Choice Awards by Not Quite Nigella one of my absolute favourite food bloggers! what an honour to be nominated! thank you, not quite nigella!
of course, i'd like to take this opportunity to thank my spatula, my measuring cups and my favourite essences for helping me get this far. i couldn't have done it without them!
now, what can you do to help??? well, get those fingers clicking and vote for me. i shall be eternally grateful and so shall my spatula, measuring cups and essences!