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!

Saturday, 12 July 2008

an ever so pink kinda distraction...

oh, what to do when you have a fabulous new 'bubblegum pink' laptop? spend hours upon hours exploring and investigating and pressing all the wrong buttons and probably forever tainting it's virgin pristine condition, of course! yes, oh yes, sad but true...i have been completely neglecting cupcakes for my new toy. shame on me, i know but it's just too pink to resist!
when i opened the box and my brother saw it was pink, he cheekily told me i'm such a cliche (hmph, no more cupcakes for him!) and maybe i am but hey, what the cupcake! i love it and am totally smitten with the fabulous colour which is having such a magnetic effect on me that it's becoming hard to leave the house!
hooray for Dell and their rainbow-coloured array of laptops...they certainly have made me one happy customer! now back to the recipe book...i promise...

Saturday, 5 July 2008

rhubarb & passionfruit crumble cupcakes...fabulously light and summery!

when the summer weather doesn't appear as hoped for, one has to make do with creating their own taste of summer and this is where the idea for these cupcakes came. i love grandma used to make rhubarb pie when i was younger and home in Ireland for summer holidays and we'd eat big slices of it with fresh cream or ice-cream and i just loved the tartness of the rhubarb with the sweetness of the cream. for the cupcakes though, i wanted it to be more of a crumble taste but still have that contrast of tartness and sweetness. so i settled on a rhubarb cupcake, with a passionfruit filling, a thin layer of vanilla buttercream icing and a layer of biscuit crumbs.

i used sauces that i had bought at the local market that runs every sunday in Howth - the passionfruit curd was the same as the one i used as the topping for the brownie cupcakes i made recently and the rhubarb was a gingered rhubarb jam. i mixed the rhubarb jam straight into the batter exactly like the marmalade cupcakes i made some time ago so click through to that for the recipe. they were really moist and soft. using the cone method for each cupcake i cut out a piece and filled it with the passionfruit curd. the vanilla buttercream went on top in a thin layer as buttercream can often be overpowering and i didn't want it to be such a predominant flavour in the cupcake. then the biscuit crumbs (crushed up digestive biscuits...about 4) were pressed on top. i piped a little buttercream on top and popped a sugar swirl to decorate.

the taste was fantastic. i loved it! the flavours combined together to make a lovely light, summery cupcake that you felt you could easily eat 4 or 5 more. the great thing was that no flavour was too dominant - they all kinda blended together perfectly.

so if the summer isn't going the weather-way you want it...create your own little bite of summer!

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

millionaire's cupcakes!

ok, so i'm a BIG fan of millionaire's shortbread. they sell it in the shops here and it's basically a biscuit/shortbread base, layer of toffee, layer of chocolate. it is so good! i could sit and eat square after square with no thought of expanding waistline because the sheer pleasure in the eating eradicates any other negative thoughts.

so i thought i'd like to try and recreate it in cupcake form hence millionaire's cupcakes! i figured a thin layer of biscuit base, then a vanilla cupcake on top with more bits of biscuit in it, then some homemade toffee popped into the middle of the cupcake and finally a nice topping of melted chocolate! perfect!
for the biscuits i used a mixture of ginger snaps and oatmeal biscuits, because i wanted the hint of gingery taste and also the chewy consistency of the oatmeal. i pressed the ground up biscuits mixed with melted butter into the bottom of each cupcake. the batter was pretty straight forward but i liked the addition of some more ground up biscuits in there. while these were baking in the oven, i started on the toffee.

hmmm, the toffee...there was a moment when i thought it was all going to end in disaster. i decided on making the toffee myself this time, rather than using pre-bought stuff. i figured that since i use toffee quite a lot i might as well figure out how to make it. well, when i loaded everything into the saucepan and put it on the heat, everything started bubbling up and getting really hot and splashing everywhere. i got a few burns courtesy of said toffee but it was worth it in the end because after it seeming to stay thin and runny for ages, it finally began to thicken up. after leaving it to cool it was nice and thick and the perfect consistency. phew!

everything came together nicely. once the cupcakes had cooled, using the cone method, i made some space in each cupcake and filled it with the thick toffee. replaced the lid and topped it with the melted chocolate and a marshmallow. i was hoping the chocolate would set...but strangely it didn't...mind you, i haven't checked them in awhile so maybe it has by now.

then came the taste-test...obviously these cupcakes had a lot to live up to as i have had more than my fair share of millionaire's shortbread and might be somewhat of a connoisseur on the delight! but yes, these lovely little creations completely passed the test. the biscuit base was lovely and moist and not hard and crunchy. the mild gingery taste was there and the oatmeal provided a little more texture which was good. the cupcake was moist and the toffee simply lovely - thick and creamy. the chocolate topping (although not at this point set) was perfect. all in all a very pleasing re-creation of a favourite treat.


8 oatmeal biscuits, ground up
8 ginger snaps, ground up
1/4 c. melted butter

mix the butter and biscuits together and then put one heaped tablespoon into each cupcake case. press down to form a thin base.

1/2 c. butter
3/4 c. sugar
2 eggs
1 1/3 c. plain flour
1 t. baking powder
1/3 c. ground biscuits
1/8 t. salt
2/3 c. milk
1 t. vanilla extract

mix together flour, baking powder, salt and ground biscuits. set aside.
beat butter in a mixer until soft. add sugar and beat until fluffy.
add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
add flour mix alternately with milk and vanilla extract mix in three additions, finishing with the flour mix.
pop into cupcake cases and bake for 25 minutes.
let cool on a wire rack.

Toffee filling
175g butter
175g caster sugar
1 can condensed milk
4 T. golden syrup

put the ingredients in a saucepan and heat over a low heat until butter melts. turn up the heat and bubble mix for 5-8 minutes until it has turned a golden brown and consistency is thick and fudge-like. leave to cool.

bar of plain chocolate, melted

cut a cone in the top of each cupcake and remove some extra cake. fill with toffee mix and replace lid of cupcake. top with melted chocolate and marshmallow.
devour shamelessly!

the chocolate did set and i managed to snag a few pics of one of the last remaining cupcakes....

i've also decided to enter this for a blog event i found...Original Recipes : Culinarty Round-Up as this is my very own translation of a popular recipe to cupcake form!