Sunday, 28 February 2010

History Corner – Richmond Cakes


This is the start of a new, regular(ish) feature – History Corner. I have a tremendous fondness for original, old cookbooks. There are two very clear stances on such books – if, like me, you are seduced by the history and beauty of old recipes and view them as a window on the world in which they were written, you will think of them as “vintage” or “antique” books. If you don’t share that view you are likely to term them “smelly old second hand books”.

The recipe today is taken from “Cakes” part of the domestic arts series and written by Florence B. Jack, who also authored the thrillingly titled “The Art of Laundry Work” and was principal of the school of the domestic arts, Edinburgh. A quick googling suggests this school no longer exists.

The book, costing 1 shilling (about 5p in today’s money) was published in 1907 but my copy contains a wonderful handwritten inscription of “With the author’s love, xmas 1906” which makes me wonder if this was an early or preview edition. The handwriting is beautiful and I’ve tried to photograph it but it’s rather faded.

What I often notice about old recipes is the lack of detail – rarely are methods given nor is a cake tin size mentioned. Florence gives us some useful tips in the book’s introduction such as “see that your fire is in good condition” or “inferior or tainted butter should never be used for cakes”. I’m mildly repulsed by her claim that for “plainer cakes good beef dripping may be used instead of butter” but who knows? Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it (NB. I have zero intention of trying it)

This book was, seemingly, written before ovens came with any way of setting a temperature. Florence recommends scattering flour in a cake tin and if it turns brown within 5 minutes there is likely to be enough heat to bake a cake. She also suggests putting white paper in the oven and if it has turned yellow after 5 minutes the heat is “suitable for most cakes”. I like the caveat of “most”. She does however suggest ideal temperatures for baking should one be lucky enough to own an oven thermometer although she warns that “these are somewhat fragile articles” thus not always satisfactory.

The recipe I have chosen, Richmond Cakes, caught my eye because it seems to be baked in small tins that could be viewed as forerunners of our modern day cupcake tins. Richmond is a rather leafy, well to do part of London right on the Thames and I assume the cakes are named after it. Florence doesn’t give any chat about her recipes so I’m guessing.

When these cakes were cooking the smell was amazing; think of the heady spices in a Christmas cake but with treacly/syrupy notes instead of the sweetness of dried fruit. They were delicious to eat – a soft, crumbly sponge packed with flavour and given an extra layer of texture thanks to the coconut.

The quantities are pre-metric and therefore in pounds and ounces. I include these but also offer modern measurements. I have set out her original quantities below but they look rather mean so I trebled the quantities and got 24 plump little cakes! According to Florence the probable cost of making these cakes is 9d (according to the CCM this is approximate to 4p in today’s money!)

Ingredients

3oz/85g unsalted butter, at room temperature

2oz/57g brown sugar

2oz/57g treacle (I used golden syrup)

½ teaspoon ground ginger

½ teaspoon mixed spice

4oz/113g plain flour

A little grated lemon rind (I omitted this)

1oz/28g rice flour

2 eggs

2 tablespoons desiccated coconut

1 teaspoon baking powder

Method

- Preheat the oven to a moderate temperature. This is given as approximately 300˚F which converts to 150˚c/fan oven 130˚c/gas mark 2. This seemed rather too low so I used the more common definition of moderate oven of 180˚c/fan oven 160˚c/350˚F /gas mark 4.

- Grease a cupcake baking tray with butter. You could use paper cases if you wish but I have tried to stick to the spirit of the recipe as far as possible. NB. This recipe makes 8 generously sized cupcakes. I trebled the mix without any problem.

- Beat the butter and sugar together until soft and creamy.

- Add the treacle, spices and – if using – the lemon rind and mix well.

- Sieve the flours together and add them to the batter alternating with the eggs.

- Beat the mixture until air bubbles start to appear, then stir in the coconut and baking powder.

- Fill the cupcake tins between half and three quarters full.

- Bake in the oven for between 15-20 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the cakes comes out clean. Mine took 20 minutes.

- Place the tins to cool on a wire rack and remove the cakes when the tin is cool enough to handle comfortably.

- Bask in the glory of the wonderful thing you have made.

- Eat

Mother’s day treat tower from Interflora


Lucky, lucky me – look what Interflora sent me to try! This is how it arrives:

Interflora have a section of their site dedicated to Mother's Day (quite right too!) - check out Mothers day flowers and Mothers day gifts for more details. This tower of goodies has everything you need to pamper your mother on Mother’s Day. The two gorgeous baskets include:

Lorina Pink Lemonade

Hessian Gift Bag of All Butter Lemon Biscuits

Droste Chocolate Pastilles

New English Camomile Tea

Mrs Bridges Peach & Apricot Preserve

Gift Box of Cocoabean Handmade Chocolate Marshmallows

Hider Chocolate Coated Peanuts

Divine Fairtrade White Chocolate with Strawberries

Kshocolat Milk Chocolate Blackcurrants

We so often think of flowers for Mother’s Day (and if you want flowers where better than Interflora?) but surely sometimes your mum would prefer a selection of tasty treats?

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Rhubarb and custard cake


When you walk along the street carrying rhubarb it gets a reaction like no other fruit or vegetable – most people look and smile (because, let’s be honest, a stick of rhubarb is a funny looking thing and it never fits in the bag you’re carrying it in leaving Triffid-like stalks and leaves sticking out!) while anyone even vaguely ‘foodie’ nods respectfully.

My rhubarb is forced as it’s too early in the year for garden rhubarb to make an appearance. The stalks are thin and a gorgeous flamingo pink colour. If there’s a more beautiful colour to be found in the world of food I can’t think what it is. For more rhubarb ideas click here

The rhubarb is roasted; here is it about to go into the oven (don’t worry that it looks too much – I made two cakes at the same time):

Here it is post-roasting and draining in a sieve. Note that it retains it’s beautiful colour:

Rhubarb and custard is a classic combination and this cake incorporates them both resulting in a sponge dotted with colours not dissimilar to that other great food partnership, bacon and eggs.

I wouldn’t advise using any fancy custard here, don’t browse the chiller cabinet in the supermarket – you actually want a thick yellow custard as it holds its shape better during baking. I used a ready made Ambrosia custard and that worked perfectly.

The obligatory serving suggestion:

If you are a British child of the 70s the theme tune to Roobarb and Custard will most likely have been playing through your head the whole time you’ve been reading this post. For those of you who are scratching your head in puzzlement this should explain:

Ingredients

For the rhubarb:
400g rhubarb, washed and cut into chunks
50g caster sugar

For the cake:
250g unsalted butter, at room temperature
150g ready made custard (the thicker and more yellow, the better! I used Ambrosia)
250g self raising flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
4 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
250g golden caster sugar

Method

- Start by making the rhubarb element: Preheat the oven to 200˚c/fan oven 180˚c/400˚F / gas mark 6.

- Wash and trim the rhubarb and dry on kitchen paper. Cut into largish chunks, approx 2-3cm long.

- Place in a shallow baking tray and sprinkle the caster sugar over it as evenly as possible. Toss together.

- Spread the rhubarb in a single layer if possible then cover with foil and roast for 15 minutes.

- Remove the foil and shake the tray a little. Roast for a further 5 minutes or until the rhubarb is tender and the juices are syrupy.

- Drain off the juices before you let the rhubarb cool – this stops the rhubarb getting too wet and making the cake soggy.

- Lower the oven temperature to 180˚c/fan oven 160˚c/350˚F / gas mark 4.

- Line a 2ocm round springform cake tin with baking paper.

- Put 3 tablespoons of custard to one side for later.

- Beat the butter, remaining custard, flour, baking powder, eggs, vanilla and golden caster sugar in a large bowl until smooth and creamy.

- Spoon a third of the batter into the prepared tin and level.

- Spoon a third of the rhubarb onto the batter and ensure it is evenly distributed.

- Spoon a further third of the batter onto the rhubarb and spread out as best you can. Be gentle and it will be ok.

- Spoon a further third of rhubarb and top with the remaining cake batter.

- Scatter the remaining rhubarb on top and then dot the 3 tablespoons of reserved custard on top as well.

- Bake for approximately 40 minutes or until risen and golden, then cover with foil and bake for a further 15-20 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean. Mine took nearer to 1 hour 30 minutes in total.

- Cool in the tin on a wire rack.

- If you wish you can sieve some icing sugar over the top before serving. Serve with some thick cream.

- Bask in the glory of the wonderful thing you have made.

- Eat


Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Iron Cupcake London – Challenge IX: The Perfect Pair

The theme: THE PERFECT PAIR! Enter any cupcake you wish, the sole restriction being that it must contain only TWO flavours i.e. no more than two flavours in the whole thing - sponge and frosting. Will you go for a classic combination or something more outrageous? Dazzle our taste buds! Wow us with your flavour-combining skills! Good luck!

Requirements: Make a minimum of 18 cupcakes that meet the theme of THE PERFECT PAIR – if you can make more please do…the more you make, the more people can taste your delicious creation (and vote for you!) Please feel free to enter as many types of cupcake as you wish, I only ask that you have at least 18 of each.
Please cut at least 6 of your cupcakes in half, so that smaller tables can still sample everything.

Prizes: The winners of the professional and amateur contests will each receive one of these gorgeous three tiered mirrored cake stands:

Voting: Bakers and Judges will vote individually, each table of eaters will also have a vote too.

Bakers - As usual, please let me know if you plan to enter either of the competitions so we can gauge numbers.

There are now two competitions – one category for professionals*, one for amateurs**. Please indicate which competition you are entering.

*You are a professional entrant if you have a cupcake business, if you regularly sell cupcakes or any other cakes for profit (i.e. not charitable events or fetes) or you are a professionally trained chef/baker.
**You are an amateur entrant if you have, once or twice, taken a small commission from friends or family for a wedding etc and have received a fee to cover your costs or are a home/recreational baker.

Event details:

Monday 1st March 2010
6.00pm – 9.00pm
Venue – The Cuban Bar, Citypoint, One Ropemaker Street, EC2Y 9AYFor a map click here

Although the address is Ropemaker Street it’s actually on the Citypoint plaza. Just behind the Moorgate tube station entrance that’s in the row of shops including HMV, Hotel Chocolat, Eat and Clinton Cards, you’ll see a very tall building. That’s the Citypoint Tower. Head towards it and you’ll see a paved plaza-type area. Near the base of the tower you will see a small newsagent kiosk and a Costa, to the left of these (if looking at the tower) are The Rack & Tenter, then Prets. Head towards Prets into a covered walkway at the base of City point. This is where the Cuban bar is. We’ll be in the basement.

Entry fee for eaters: £5 (Entry fee includes tea or coffee). Bakers enter for FREE!

Timetable of events:

6.00-6.45pm – Entries are labelled and plated up
6.45 onwards – Eating and voting commences

Incidentally, The Caked Crusader and, consequently, ICL are now on Facebook and Twitter. Why not befriend Samantha Cake on Facebook – it’s me!!!! And then become a fan of the Caked Crusader page. We will be using this to post news of upcoming events, have discussions, in fact anything fun involving cake. To make it even easier here’s a link. On Twitter you can find me as CakedCrusader. So there’s no excuse not to stay in touch.

As the event expands it has become necessary for us to set out some disclaimers relating to the event namely that, as we are hosts of the event and don’t actually oversee any of the baking, we take people at their word as to the ingredients of the cupcakes and the environment in which they are prepared. It is unlikely that any entries are prepared in nut-free kitchens and anyone with allergies or intolerances should bear that in mind. Similarly, if an entrant tells us that an entry is vegan-friendly we believe them – feel free to chat to them on the night before sampling if you have any concerns. Your entry fee entitles you to free tea and coffee. Of course you can also sample all the cupcakes, for which we accept no liability.

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Valentine’s biscuits


I must confess that everything about Valentine’s Day makes me recoil from it with great speed – it’s so cynically marketed and, if you love someone, why do you need to be told to demonstrate it on a particular day? Why not every day?

Anyway, rant over (it’s fairly hypocritical anyway as I bought a card, gifts etc for Mr CC), this is my attempt at some Valentine’s baking. You can of course make these biccies at any time of year and ‘seasonalise’ (I’ve invented a word) them by using a different shaped cutter. And well worth making they are too as they are short and buttery and crispy but also crumbly. Just about my perfect biscuit.

When you bite into these you might well think they are shortbread – they aren’t, but they have a similar texture. If you cut a little shape out of the middle of some of the biscuits you can sandwich them with a whole one and create a pretty little window effect.

I sandwiched some with nutella, some with raspberry jam and left some plain. Don’t add the filling until the day of eating otherwise you might lose some of the crispness of the biscuit.

You can reroll any cut outs but I baked them – you are rewarded with delicious little crisp mouthfuls of biscuity heaven!


Ingredients:

For the biscuits:
225g unsalted butter, diced and at room temperature
100g caster sugar
200g plain flour, plus extra for rolling
100g ground almonds

To sandwich (optional): nutella or raspberry jam. I suspect any jam or curd would work well.

How to make:

- Place all the ingredients in a food processor and blitz until a dough just starts to form.

- Knead the dough into a ball and then wrap in clingfilm and refrigerate for 2 hours minimum (it’s a very soft dough so needs this long).

- Preheat the oven to 140°C/fan oven 120°C/275°F/Gas mark 1.

- Line two large baking sheets with baking or greaseproof paper.

- Remove the dough from the fridge and knead until it has softened. If it is still sticky add some more flour and knead this in. I added about a further 2-3 tablespoons.

- Cut the dough in half and roll one half out between two sheets of generously floured baking paper. Normally I wouldn’t flour baking paper but this dough needed it – use your judgement.

- Roll it out to 1/2cm thick and then cut out using your chosen cutter. If you’re planning to sandwich the biscuits take a smaller cutter and cut the centre out of half the biscuits.

- Place the biscuits and the cut out middles onto a baking sheet leaving about 1-2cm gap between them as they expand on baking.

- Repeat with the second ball of dough.

- Bake in the oven for approximately 40 minutes or until the biscuits are a pale golden brown. I was sceptical at a long bake at a low temperature but loved the effect – the biscuit had a much more delicate texture to it. Mine actually took a little over 40 minutes but it’s worth it. Check after 20 minutes in case the trays need turning to ensure an even bake.

- Place the trays on a cooling rack and let the biscuits cool. Don’t even think about moving them until they are cold as they are too fragile and will break.

- Store in an airtight container until you wish to serve, then sandwich with nutella or jam. Of course, you can leave them plain and enjoy the buttery almond taste on its own!

- Bask in glory at the wonderful thing you have made.

- Eat.

Trifle


Trifle is something that people seem to have got a little snobby about over the past few years. I’m not sure why as it’s heavenly! As long as you follow the basic components it also gives you great freedom of choice as to what you actually put in it.

Consequently, I’m not going to provide a recipe because it depends on what fruit is in season and what size bowl you’re going to use. I will however, tell you what my trifle included! I made lots and put some in my lovely crystal bowl (my January mega-bargain, if you recall) and made some in individual glasses:

Every trifle must have a spongy bottom (I think I must be a trifle!) Many people use swiss roll for this but I find that can make the overall dish too sweet so I made a Victoria sponge – the one I used for my Giant Madeleine – and cut that up. When served it almost gives it a summer pudding look, but with the bonus of custard and cream!

For the fruit layer I bought one box each of strawberries, raspberries, blackberries and blueberries. As the berries were tart I sprinkled a teaspoon of caster sugar over them to sweeten them up. Scatter these over the sponge layer and it already starts to look good!

Now we come to the ‘hot potato’ issue of trifle making: to jelly or not to jelly? I wouldn’t myself, but I was making this trifle for Mr CC, and the CCM and CCD all of whom like a bit of jelly. I used Rowntrees jelly cubes and made it up according to the packet instructions before pouring it over the fruit. It is quite satisfying to watch it seep into the sponge.

At this point refrigerate the bowl until the jelly has set. Now the custard layer. Use whichever custard you prefer – some like a thick yellow Bird’s custard but I find this a little plastic so bought good quality premade custard and beat some mascarpone cheese into it to thicken it. This is my top tip - custard and mascarpone is divine!

On top of this you only need some whipped cream and you’re done! Decorate with flaked almonds or chocolate or fruit – it’s up to you. As a nod to Valentine’s day I used some tiny sugar hearts.

Make sure you listen out for that terrific squelch noise that the first spoonful – and only the first spoonful – makes out of the serving bowl, then tuck into to English food at its finest!

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Pear and cinnamon bake

I’ve been hit with a gastric flu-type bug for the latter half of this week, so no baking for me. However, I’ve raided my ‘secret unpublished archive’ (a girl should always hold something back!) and have this delight for you!

After an awful winter it does seem that spring might be in the offing – the nights are definitely drawing out. While this is good on practically every level, there is one level where I wish it was always winter: puddings. A good solid pud with custard or ice cream is never more comforting than during the miserable winter months, therefore I had to sneak this recipe in before my thoughts turned to lighter fare.

I thought the pear slices, gently frying in butter, looked beautiful:

This pudding doesn’t look all that in the bowl but when you turn it out and see all the gorgeous pear slices with thick treacly sauce glistening over and around them, you start to see the beauty!

I can’t really think of a fruit that cinnamon doesn’t compliment; this pudding could be made with apples or, simply by leaving out the frying stage, peaches, apricots, blackberries or nectarines.

The sponge turns deliciously squidgy as the treacle sauce sinks into it:


Ingredients:
For the pears:
2-3 pears, peeled, cored and quartered
Knob of butter

For the treacle:
25g unsalted butter
90g Demerara sugar
2 tablespoons golden syrup

For the batter:
125g unsalted butter
120g caster sugar
2 eggs
150g self raising flour
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons milk (whole or semi skimmed)

How to make:

- Preheat the oven to 200°C/fan oven 180°C/400°F/Gas mark 6.

- Generously grease a 1.2l pudding basin with butter. Make sure that the basin is ovenproof. I used an ovenproof glass basin.

- Cut the pear quarters through again in length so each pair is now cut into 8 chunky slices.

- Heat the knob of butter in a frying pan and fry the pears over a gentle heat just until they soften. Put to one side to cool.

- Now make the treacle: Place all the ingredients in a saucepan and cook over a medium heat until the sugar crystals have dissolved.

- Pour the treacle syrup into the prepared basin and then arrange the pear slices on top.

- Now make the batter: Cream together the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy.

- Gradually beat in the eggs. If the mix looks like it might curdle add a little of the flour.

- Fold in the flour and cinnamon.

- Stir in the milk.

- Spoon the batter carefully over the pears. It won’t look like you have that much batter but it will be ample to cover the pears.

- Bake for 40-50 minutes until the cake appears to be cooked.

- Turn out the pudding onto a plate and serve hot with either custard or ice cream

- Bask in glory at the wonderful thing you have made.

- Eat.


Wednesday, 3 February 2010

ICL Challenge VIII – Love


Love was certainly in the air – cupcake love! We had 35 bakers entering a total of 40 varieties of cupcakes. For the first time we split the competition into professional and amateur categories; the standard of both was dazzling.


The winners include some familiar faces, and some very new faces. That’s what I love about this competition – you can win it with your very first entry.

Thanks to everyone for providing such positive feedback about all our changes this month.


Incidentally, you may happen to notice some gorgeous sparkling table jewels in the photos – they were very generously provided by our new best friends at The Last Detail, the only place to go if you want beautiful party and table decorations.

Amateur winner - Tamara’s Chocolate oreo cupcake with cream cheese frosting


Tamara’s sponge was divine – a cross between the squidgiest, richest brownie you’ve ever tasted and light sponge, with a deep cocoa hit. We all loved the creamy smooth frosting – amazingly light for cream cheese.


A well deserved win – even more impressive as it was Tamara’s Iron Cupcake debut!

Amateur runner up - Emma’s Chocolate loveberry cupcake


Emma’s chocolate sponge contained thick raspberry sauce which made the sponge rich and moist. The raspberry buttercream was whipped and thick. On its own this would have been delicious but the brownie heart topper was a delightful addition.


Professional winner - Amanda’s Pink champagne and strawberry cupcake


Amanda’s pink champagne cupcake had a strawberry filling and was topped off with pink champagne frosting. What always impresses me with Amanda’s cupcakes is how she balances the alcohol – your taste buds get the boozy tingle but it’s never overpowering.


Professional runner up - Eloise’s “A night in Paris” cupcake


Now you’ll either interpret the title of Eloise’s entry with a snigger or a romantic “ahhh”. I leave to you!

This quite stunningly beautiful cupcake comprised of a chocolate sponge packed with juicy berry compote. The mega-smooth whipped frosting contained pink champagne.


Those were the cupcakes with the most votes on the night; now let’s take a look through all the other lovely entries – be prepared to be stunned by the artistry, imagination and sheer skill on display.

We’ll start with the amateurs…I almost feel embarrassed calling them amateur entries and I’m sure you’ll see why very shortly:

Ying’s Classic sponge and buttercream cupcake


Ying’s cupcake was a classic Victoria sponge and had all the gorgeous buttery crumbliness you’d hope for. It had a lovely light texture and smooth rich buttercream. How cute are the tiny heart sprinkles on top?

Caro’s “Bitter and blue” cupcakes


Caro focused more on the dark side of love for her entry – a lime and blueberry cupcake filled with homemade blueberry curd topped off with lime frosting and a chocolate heart. The blueberry curd was a revelation – gorgeous flavour and texture. Lime and blueberry wasn’t a flavour combination I’d had before but it really worked.

Carol’s Classic vanilla cupcake with love heart themed icing


Carol gave us a perfect sponge with deliciously sweet and smooth glace icing. She decorated each cupcake so that it represented a love heart – each had it’s own message!

Kelly’s Red velvet cupcake


Kelly made the most beautiful red velvet cupcake – it was rich and moist yet retained the crumbliness that my favourite sponges all have. The cream cheese frosting was light and smooth and I could have eaten the whole cupcake…ok, two…alright, alright, three of them! Loved Cupid’s arrow spearing the frosting – very romantic!

Mitsu’s Strawberry and custard cupcake


Mitsu’s vegan friendly cupcake comprised of a strawberry and custard sponge topped off with strawberry buttercream. One bite of this and I was transported back to my childhood days eating Strawberry fruitella sweets – that’s just what it tasted like. Yum!

Sasha’s “Lover’s double chocolate” cupcakes


Sasha’s vegan friendly cupcake had a wonderful hit of cocoa that was rich but not overly sweet. Her double chocolate sponge was teamed with vanilla and chocolate buttercream.

Fiona’s Rose cupcakes


Fiona’s delicate and fragrant cupcakes were beautifully judged, and visually stunning. She used distilled rose petals to create a scent and flavour that lingered but was also light. This was a big hit with my fellow eaters.

Charley’s “Love button” cupcakes


Charley’s chocolate and mint cupcakes were well balanced and topped off with chocolate buttercream. Their dinky size meant that you could tuck in and feel virtually guilt free!

Kelly’s chocolate cupcakes with white chocolate frosting


Let’s start with Kelly’s decoration – I hope you can see the pink heart but there were also chocolate letters “I” and “U” thus the decoration was “I heart U”. Very sweet! The cupcake had a lovely chocolaty taste that was rich and powerful – lovely!

Natalie’s “Love Potion” cupcakes


Natalie cleverly chose ingredients that spelled out the word “Love”. Liquor 43 (which is a vanilla liqueur), Oreos, Vanilla and Espresso. All the eaters at my table enjoyed the chocolate/coffee combination and then the hit of booze. If you notice in the photo there is a little tab hanging out the side of the envelope – pull on this and a romantic message was revealed!

Ros’s Tropical passion cupcakes


Ros teamed passion fruit and pineapple sponge with coconut and lime frosting. The passion fruit was an intense flavour and I loved the way the seeds popped and crunched in my mouth. The pineapple came through later and left a lovely tangy flavour – a lovely burst of sunshine for a cold winter’s evening!

Ros’s “It’s a rocky road to love” cupcakes


Ros’s second entry of the night was a rocky road masterclass. Her rocky road included chocolate, marshmallow, peanuts and cherries…and this was only the frosting! Underneath all that was a delicious sponge and it all married up to a tasty mix of different textures.

Charlotte’s Bitesize love cupcakes


Charlotte chose a buttery, rich Victoria sponge for her cupcake and topped it with a classic buttercream with chocolate orange sprinkles (in the shape of a heart – what else?) The sprinkles added extra texture and flavour and were a lovely addition.

Katie’s “Vanilla is love” cupcakes


Katie’s classic vanilla sponge was teamed with buttery icing. The flavours were clean and simple…and no worse for it! Dave, our ace cameraman, is a sucker for a classic sponge and icing combination and he loved this one.

Mara’s “Cherry kiss” cupcakes


Mara gave us a chocolate and cherry sponge (awesome flavour combination!) topped off with chocolate orange buttercream and a Hershey’s kiss (brought back from America!). It was a really interesting combination as your taste buds noticed the chocolate and orange first before the cherry cut through.

Nathalina’s “Princess Raspberry” cupcakes


If ever cupcakes looked like a Princess then Nathalina’s are the ones! A raspberry filled vanilla sponge was covered with buttercream and enveloped in marzipan. And they were dairy free. I love the way the glittery heart is surrounded in tiny sugar pearls – so pretty!

Francesca’s Pink lemon and chocolate cupcakes with raspberry buttercream


The sprinkles you can see on top of Francesca’s cupcake are actually fizzy. When you took a bite of the cake and the lemon flavour started fizzing so it was like eating lemonade – really clever…and tasty! We all took some and went “ooh” at pretty much the same time!

Rose’s Raspberry heart cupcakes


Rose made a delicious chocolate sponge and swirled raspberry cheesecake through it – this created a lovely texture and flavour. The chocolate cream cheese frosting tied in beautifully with the sponge.

Thuc’s “Groovy baby” cupcakes


Thuc took inspiration from Austin Powers for her vanilla and strawberry swirl cupcakes. The chocolate lettering says “groovy baby” and the frosting had marshmallows in it making it sticky and sweet. Austin would love them!

Thuc’s Strawberry and vanilla cupcakes


Thuc’s second entry of the night was a masterclass in flavour combining. We all loved the way the sweet, almost fragrant, strawberry gave way to the vanilla and the simple cream topping cleansed your palate for the next bite. These were very, very quaffable!

Kat’s “Passionate fruit” cupcakes


Kat’s cheesecake sponge was moist and close textured and the passion fruit worked so well with this texture. Passion fruit was a popular choice on the night and I was very impressed with the sharp fruitiness it adds to a cupcake.

Cat and Hannah’s “Berries and bubbles” cupcake


Cat and Hannah went for the decadent with this little beauty - the berries were strawberry and the bubbles were courtesy of champagne! The champagne frosting was topped with popping candy and it gave a satisfying scrunch to the cupcake.

Andy’s “Opposites attract” cupcakes


Opposite’s attract – no longer just a musical guilty pleasure (come on – you all remember the Paula Abdul video with the sinister dancing cartoon cat or wolf…whatever he was!). It’s now a cupcake! Andy made a cupcake of two halves – one half strawberry, one half chocolate. Chilli flavoured chocolate added quite a kick to the cake – you ended up with strong heat in the back of your mouth!

Clare’s Strawberry and vanilla cupcake with champagne glaze and butter icing


Clare’s soft buttery sponge had subtle, classy flavours which we all enjoyed immensely. I loved the heart sitting on top of the pink buttercream – such a simple but pretty decoration.

Shelley’s Chilli chocolate cupcakes


Debutante Shelley spoiled us with three different entries! The chocolate sponge had a gentle hit of chilli and the cream topping cleverly cut through this and calmed all the flavours down. It was a really well balance mix of flavours.

Shelley’s “Wine and roses” cupcakes


Shelley’s second entry was a heady combination of rose sponge and wine buttercream. All the eaters at my table enjoyed the fragrant rose and the subtle buttercream. The cake looked so pretty with the rose petal decoration.

Shelley’s Raspberry and white chocolate cupcakes


Shelley’s final entry of the night was a creamy white chocolate sponge housing little pockets of raspberry. The light whipped frosting was a joy to eat. I know that Shelley and her helpers travelled quite a way to join us for the evening so I hope they all enjoyed themselves and went home happy and full of cake!

Philip’s “My first cupcake”


Be prepared to say “awwww, bless”. When I asked Philip why he’d titled his entry so he replied it was because these were the first cupcakes he’d ever baked and he only baked them so he could enter the competition. All together now…3…2…1…..awww bless! Philip’s strawberry and vanilla cupcakes will hopefully be the start of a great baking hobby – he certainly has an eye for presentation…you have noticed how the strawberry has been shaped into a heart?

Sinead’s “Blind love” cupcakes


Sinead – and I hope she doesn’t mind me sharing this – gave her cupcakes this name because she felt they had come out a bit…well, ugly. Apart from the fact they haven’t, they tasted delicious. The marshmallow frosting had a gorgeous sticky texture but also managed to be creamy. It worked really well with the vanilla cupcake.

Gemma’s Gingerbread cupcakes with cream cheese frosting


These are so cute – notice how Gemma’s gingerbread couple are actually one biscuit and how they each have little heart shaped buttons. I love detail like that! I’ve never had ginger with cream cheese frosting before and it was a revelation – it was so good!

Eva’s White chocolate mudcake with passion fruit frosting


Eva’s mudcake was yummy – it was rich and moist and dense and very, very easy to make a piggy of yourself over! The passion fruit cut through the richness and added some zingy fruitiness. A very well thought out combination.

Lydia’s Beetroot and white chocolate cupcakes


OK, put your beetroot prejudice aside because it really works! Beetroot is a sweet vegetable and it added real depth and moisture to this rich sponge. Lydia clearly knows her stuff with the piping bag – the intricate swirl design is very pretty indeed.

Those were the amateur entries; I suspect you can now see why I struggle with the word “amateur”. Here are the professionals:

Elaine’s “Love me tender” cupcakes


Elaine took her inspiration from Elvis for these delights: a banana and bacon cupcake with peanut butter Swiss meringue buttercream and glitter. It was one of my favourite moments of the evening when Max, my nephew, asked me how Elaine had made her cupcakes taste of bacon. “Because she put real bacon in them”, I replied. He could only gasp in response, “but…..that’s AMAZING!”

Elaine’s “Chocolate and roses” cupcakes


Elaine’s second entry matched a chocolate sponge with rose petal jam and then smothered it in chocolate Swiss meringue buttercream and a chocolate moulded rose. All the eaters at my table loved the subtle flavours and textures.

Lucy’s Red velvet cupcakes with white chocolate and pink champagne frosting


Lucy’s gorgeous red velvet cupcake was topped with light, whipped white chocolate and champagne frosting. The little sprinkles added some crunch and it was an immensely comforting creation to eat.

Kerry’s “Love bites” cupcakes


Kerry’s rich chocolate sponge contained a hit of chilli and was topped off with a chocolate and cream cheese buttercream. The chilli just set the back of your tongue tingling and the cream cheese calmed it down. It was a lovely balance of flavours.


So there you are – all our gorgeous entries each interpreting love in their own way.

Thanks to all the bakers and eaters who came along on a cold and dark wintery evening to share some love and bask in the glory of cupcakes! Thanks also to all of you who have taken time to share your thoughts and provide feedback on the event and how we run it. I am glad you were happy with the changes we made last night.

Thanks again to all at The Last Detail for providing our lovely table gems!

My heartiest thanks – as always - go to my dedicated team of helpers who keep me from getting completely frazzled on the night by generously giving up their time for no reward other than my thanks (and some lovely cupcakes, of course!). I couldn’t run this event without them.
Thank you Paul, Dave, Max, Tina and Ying.

Iron Cupcake London returns on 1st March with a challenge entitled “The Perfect Pair”. You can bake any cupcake you wish as long as it contains TWO flavours – and only two flavours. Full details will be announced shortly.