Lemon curd cupcakes

April 22, 2014 at 6:43 pm | Posted in baking | Leave a comment
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I am delighted to receive baking related presents: I rarely have to buy cupcake cases and I have a glorious selection that means there is something appropriate for any occasion. On a more mundane level my kitchen is kitted out with equipment that friends and family have bought, from the Kenwood Chef that marked my 30th birthday to an array of Sophie Conran serving items. So it is a real joy when these gifts all get put to good use to share some love with others.

Sunday afternoon tea is a total treat and the pleasure is magnified if someone else is hosting the party.  I was overjoyed to be invited to tea by Lynda, especially as she asked for volunteers to share the baking burden. A  tea party is a great excuse to make cupcakes creating the opportunity to use the piping bag stand that Ailsa had found in Lakeland for my birthday present and in transporting them to the venue I used the utterly essential cupcake carrier (also a gift!)

Iced and ready to go

Iced and ready to go

As the day was verging on the beginning of spring, I wanted to make something that was light and hinted at the promise of sunshine to come, which made me think of lemon cupcakes. I had experimented before with lemon curd buttercream and thought it delicious, but had not written down the recipe. So I thought I would try again, and would record the recipe for posterity if it was any good!

Making it

The cupcakes were the Hummingbird Bakery standard recipe using the zest of a lemon to make it lemony. Using the chosen cupcake cases (these were a gift too) I got 18 out of the batter made with 2 eggs.

The buttercream was basically improvised using some hints from a couple of different recipes on-line, but I wrote it down as I went along…. so here it is:

400g icing sugar

200g butter

4 tablespoons lemon curd (a standard jar from the supermarket is around 8 tablespoons)

juice of lemon (the one used for the zest in the cake)

This was all beaten in the Kenwood chef for about 10 minutes so that it became incredibly light and fluffy.

I used the piping bag stand to make it much easier to fill the piping bag and iced big (imperfect and uneven) swirls onto the cakes. I decorated them with some sweet little flags that matched the cupcake cases (they had come in a set)

Eating it

I love lemon curd. I love buttercream. The combination of the two is utterly amazing. I will admit that the icing is seriously sweet, which is why I put lemon juice in the icing to provide a slightly sharp note to cut through the extreme sweetness.

Next time

Hopefully I will resist eating leftover icing and not be so full of icing that I have no space for all other delicious cakes my friends had baked.


The great cupcake tower

December 30, 2011 at 6:45 pm | Posted in baking | Leave a comment
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Careful readers have noticed that there was a bit of a posting drought during November and December… and I think that this time I have reason (instead of an excuse) and it was all to do with cupcakes!  When my mate Debbie got engaged to Nigel earlier in the year, I offered to make brownies or some such for the wedding – as they were planning on doing as much of the day as simply as possible. But in September, the offer got upgraded – to making me responsible for the provision of the cupcakes that were to be the wedding cake!

Fortunately I didn’t have to make the cakes all myself and had Jenni, Ruth and Lucy on standby to make their share of the cakes… but was responsible for sorting out the recipes and pulling it all together for the big day. So began 3 months of cupcake thinking (and baking!).

The colour scheme for the wedding was elegant black and white (with some red and silver highlights) so we found cases that matched the colour scheme and decided that the cakes needed to have white icing with some silver glitter. This was not difficult for the vanilla cupcakes but a little more involved for the chocolate cupcakes, because I wanted to maximise the chocolate hit by using a chocolate icing as well. So it was time to research white chocolate icing…

After a bit of wandering around the internet – I found a couple of options: a traditional buttercream enhanced with white chocolate and combinations of white chocolate and cream. So the only thing to do was to have a tasting session. Thus a group  (including the bride and groom to be) was gathered up for an afternoon tea with oodles of cake.

The vanilla cakes were straight from the Hummingbird Bakery book and the chocolate cake providing the base for the icing experiment was also from Hummingbird book. (This is a straight forward recipe to make – and in the interests of heading towards consistency I was even measuring the batter into the cases to get them evenly sized – 50ml of batter gets 18 from a 2 egg mix).

The icing: I used this white chocolate buttercream and Bill Grainger’s white chocolate and sour cream icing.

The buttercream icing was simple to make – but couldn’t be left for long because as the chocolate cooled the icing became increasingly solid. The sour cream icing was a bit more involved – and it never got very thick – but repeated beatings (using the electric hand whisk) gave it sufficient structure as it got cool to be piped. But it was thick enough to make soft icing swirls.

My guests were deeply committed to the task of tasting and comparing the icings – either on the cake or as stand-alone spoonfuls – and the near unanimous conclusion was that the sour cream icing was the best as the sour cream offsets the sweetness of the white chocolate. 

But there was a need for another trial – as I had concluded that  the chocolate cake was provided an inadequate chocolate hit. So I made them a week later with more cocoa powder (60g cocoa to 180g flour instead of 40g flour to 200g flour in the Hummingbird recipe) and this was much better: stronger flavour and a slightly lighter texture.

So with the recipes perfected – it was time to distribute the duties for the big day… I ended up making vanilla cupcakes and some gluten-free cupcakes . So that was 4 dozen cupcakes… which was fairly simple, but disaster nearly struck when i made the vanilla buttercream – making enough to cover this many cakes was taxing for the Kenwood as the butter wasn’t very soft (it required 1 kg of icing sugar). But eventually the butter softened and a vast bowlful of buttercream was created. They all looked pretty good iced and ready to be boxed up.

On the morning of the wedding, the rest of the cakes were delivered to me, before  I headed to reception venue to assemble the tower.  Fortunately it was only a short drive, so no damage was done to the cakes in transit.

I had also bought a little Christmas cake to act as the top layer of the cake so there was a cake to cut and this was made more beautiful with a lovely flower arrangement in a family heirloom vase. The florist then made the tower more beautiful by strewing it with rose petals.

The tower looked pretty good… and went down really well with the guests. We had cellophane bags for people to take a cake home with them if they were too full! So happily all the cakes were distributed and hopefully enjoyed!

So thank you to team cupcake for all your help in making beautiful cakes. Thank you to all the taste-testers and those who have suffered my rambling thoughts on all things cupcake. Most importantly – CONGRATULATIONS to Debbie and Nigel and thank you for trusting me with your cake – I hope I didn’t let you down!



Recipe 70: Potentially perfect Proustian chocolate chip cookies

October 24, 2011 at 8:35 pm | Posted in baking | Leave a comment
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Growing up I was privileged to know a wonderful American family who had attending the same church as my family.  During the years they lived in the UK I was a regular visitor to their house with my family, for youth group events and just to hang out with my friends Sarah and Cindy. Being American, they had bought some strange and wonderful eating habits and foods to our bit of Surrey:  I remain forever grateful for being introduced to ice-cream as an accompaniment to chocolate cake (in honour of birthdays).  But my absolute favourite was Vicki’s chocolate chip cookies, that were more or less permanently on offer in the house – either made with chocolate chips or M&Ms (and most exciting at Christmas when the special festive colour mix of red and green was shipped over from the States).  These were perfect chocolate chip cookies – with a gooey middle even when cold, and quite thin having spread out in the middle and slightly crisp edges. When I got married, Vicki gave me the recipe, and once tried them out…But in my immaturity as a baker, they didn’t come out right… and I lost the recipe. So I have always been on the quest for the perfect chocolate chip cookie that would magically, in the manner of Proust and his madeleines (not that I have read Remembrance of Things Past) to evoke the teenage treat, and the person I once was… and remember the best of those years.

Over the last decade I’ve tried many recipes, tweaked a few promising ones – playing around with the type of sugar and the temperature and cooking time… but never quite got there. But a while back, while discussing how much I love the Hummingbird Bakery books with my friend Kath – she told me I must try the chocolate chip cookies from the first book. So this weekend, in preparation for having some girls over for afternoon tea, and an eye on taking some baking into the office – I thought I should try them out.

Making them: very promising start – the recipe makes a huge quantity and starts with butter and soft brown sugar beaten until soft and fluffy (which is an utterly delicious substance on its own). Then eggs and vanilla are beaten in, then flour and finally chocolate chips (the recipe suggested chopping chocolate – but I’m lazy so chocolate chips it was). I dollops heaped dessert spoons over 3 baking trays – making about 40 cookies in total. I left lots of space between the cookies to allow for spread – but it was insufficient because these cookies melted in the oven to flat cookies and in place they merged. But once they were out of the oven I was able to split them up once more – although none was a particularly perfect shape.

Eating them: I was pretty sure they were going to be good from the leftover batter. But then one of the baked cookies broke in half as I was transferring them to the wire cooling trays. Obviously I couldn’t  serve my guests a broken cookies: i just had to test… and I was transported back to my teenage years… soft, gooey cookie with molten chocolate bits. My near-Proustian moment had come.
Later, when they were cooled, and I had company, I had to have another – just to check – and yes – it was indeed as close to the perfect cookie as I could imagine – even when cold they had the appropriately slightly fudgey centre (previously the closest thing to near perfect has been the occasional Millies cookie – but they are not right for other reasons). Happily my other guests without the time taste machine also thought they were delicious.

Next time: I will allow more space between the cookies as they more than doubled in size once in the oven!

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