Sunday, 31 October 2010

Chocolate cupcakes with either chocolate Ganache or chocolate buttercream

Apologies for the limited number of photos but these cupcakes – sadly – weren’t for me to eat; they were a thank you to Mr CC’s work colleagues for their generous wedding gift.

Since my last post Mr CC has made an honest woman of me! Our wedding was extremely small (just the way we wanted it) so there are no photos of wedding cake as we haven’t had it yet – we’re saving it for a bigger party at an as-yet-unknown future date. We did however, manage a Laduree tea the day after our wedding so don’t fret that I am deficient in cake!

I baked a double batch of sponges and topped half with buttercream and half with Ganache. I used a star nozzle for piping as you have to be careful when piping anything chocolate lest it comes out looking undesirable. You know what I’m getting at, I’m sure…..

Both toppings were delicious ; the buttercream is lighter whereas the ganache is richer, more like a truffle. Here is the ganache (the previous pics have been of the buttercream):

Mr CC’s feedback was that the cupcakes were very well received…but then if you can’t please a department of men with chocolate sponge, chocolate buttercream, Ganache and maltesers, what can you please them with?


For the chocolate cupcake sponge (these quantities will make 12 cupcake sponges – the mix doubles up easily should you wish to make 24):
125g unsalted butter, at room temperature
125g caster sugar
2 eggs
100g self raising flour
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
2 tablespoon milk
50g white chocolate chips

For the chocolate Ganache (this is the quantity for 12 cupcakes):
300ml whipping cream
1 tablespoon liquid glucose
200g plain chocolate, roughly chopped (I actually used ½ dark, ½ milk chocolate)

For the buttercream (this is the quantity for 12 cupcakes):
170g unsalted butter, at room temperature
340g icing sugar
4 tablespoons cocoa powder
2 tablespoons boiling water

To decorate: maltesers


Preheat the oven to 190°C/fan oven 170°C/375°F/Gas mark 5.

Line a cupcake pan with paper cases.

Beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

Beat in the eggs, flour, cocoa and milk.

When the mixture is smooth and well combined, stir in the chocolate chips.

Spoon the batter into the paper cases.

Bake for 12-15 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the cupcakes comes out clean. Mine took 15 minutes.

Remove from the tin as soon as possible and leave to cool on a wire rack – removing from the tin is important as the heat of the tin will mean that the cupcakes continue to cook.

To make the chocolate Ganache: Bring the cream to the boil in a saucepan.

Remove from the heat and stir in the liquid glucose.

Place the chocolate in the cream and stir until the chocolate melts.

Leave to cool and then whisk to lighten the texture. If it isn’t thick enough to pipe, refrigerate for 30 mins and try again.

Pipe or spread over the chocolate cupcakes.

To make the buttercream: beat the butter until it is soft.

Sift the icing sugar over the butter along with the cocoa powder and water and beat until smooth, soft and well combined. The more you beat, the lighter and more whipped the buttercream will taste.

Pipe or spread over the chocolate cupcakes.

Top off each cupcake with a malteser.

Bask in the glory of the wonderful thing you have created.


Sunday, 24 October 2010

History corner – Macaroon cakes

Today’s delve into the past comes from the 1949 edition of Lily Gilmour’s “Everyday Cookery”.
Lily seems to have taken a rather wide definition of every day cookery because some of the recipes would probably take most of the day, such as the haggis made from scratch. The first ingredient in the list is a sheep’s pluck. For the uninitiated, a pluck is the heart, liver and lights. Lights means lungs, by the way. Second ingredient on the list – a sheep’s stomach bag. Are you salivating yet?

My favourite recipe in the book is for “fried crumbs”.
The recipe – and you might want to get a pen to write this down - advises to heat butter in a frying pan, add breadcrumbs and stir over a gentle heat until they turn golden brown. Oh Lily, however do you come up with your ideas?

For all my mocking, this is actually a nice little cook book with lots of useful advice for the housewife…make no mistake, it is intended only for the housewife; the unmarried or male must look elsewhere for recipes.
As with many books of the time the writing style is authoritarian and doom laden – for example, rather than telling us that cakes should always go into pre-heated ovens, we are instead told: a cold oven is fatal. I’m assuming Lily means it’s fatal for the cake? Or maybe it’s a threat?

The recipe that caught my eye was for these little macaroon cakes.
I have never made tartlets before that use puff, rather than shortcrust, pastry. I used pre-rolled, pre-made butter puff pastry; much as I like making things from scratch my exceptions to the rule are puff and filo pastry. Lily’s recipe for puff pastry (listed elsewhere in the book) suggests that it will go from ingredients to finished pastry in less than 30 minutes…I’m rather dubious about that!

The jam that sits at the bottom of the tartlet is a most welcome addition:

If you use pre-made pastry (hangs head in shame) these are a quick bake.
They are also extremely tasty; personally though, I would prefer shortcrust pastry. Lily doesn’t list jam in the ingredients list but mentions it in the method so I have added it to my ingredients list below. I have also doubled the ingredients as I thought those given were meagre, they actually would have made 12 tartlets.

The macaroon element of this recipe is old-school! Forget the fancy little sandwiched Laduree things, these are the crunchy and chewy almond delights! The batter, on going into the oven, starts to get holes in it – rather like a crumpet. At first I thought the recipe had gone wrong but then it dawned on me that these were the hearty macaroons us Brits grew up on! Here’s a close up:


These quantities will make 24 tartlets – you will think that you are not going to have enough of the macaroon mix....but you will!

Puff pastry – I used 3 pre-rolled sheets
Raspberry jam to spoon into the bottom of each pastry case
4 egg whites
120g (4oz) ground almonds
180g (6oz) caster sugar
1 teaspoon almond extract
60g (2oz) rice flour – I used Tesco brown rice flour
½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
½ teaspoon cream of tartar


Preheat the oven to 200˚C/fan oven 180˚C/390˚F/Gas mark 6

Grease two cupcake pans with butter or cake release spray – I used cake release and they came out clean as a whistle.

Using a round biscuit cutter, cut out pastry disks and line each patty pan.

Spoon a little raspberry jam into each pastry case and put to one side.

Now make the topping: place the egg whites in a bowl and whisk until they are frothy but not yet at the soft peak stage.

Add the ground almonds, sugar and almond extract and beat until thick and well combined. The recipes states this will take 1o minutes. Mine thickened a little but was always runny.

Stir in the flour, bicarbonate of soda and cream of tartar; make sure you lift up all the ingredients from the bottom of the bowl as the almond tends to sink.

Spoon a generous tablespoon of mixture over the jam and ensure that no jam is visible (it will bubble up and spoil the look). Don’t worry that the macaroon mix is thin and runny.

Bake for approximately 25 minutes or until the macaroon is no longer wet and the pastry looks cooked.

Leave to cool in the tins until you can safely handle the tin then remove from the tin and leave to cool completely on a wire rack.

The tarts will keep in an airtight container for several days.

Bask in the glory of the wonderful thing you have created.


Sunday, 17 October 2010

Brown sugar shortbread

Mr CC is currently going through a second childhood and enjoying a renewed interest in all things dinosaur.
When we saw these dinosaur biscuit cutters it took him about 30 seconds to decide they needed to be put to use making shortbread. Remembering the old Norwegian proverb that, biscuits are made with butter and love, I rolled up my sleeves and set to work! (NB. Regarding the dinosaur at the bottom of the next picture – I wasn’t sure what end his eye should go so I did half at one end, half at the other. Looking at the picture now, I’m pretty sure that’s the wrong end!)

Many shortbread recipes, particularly the more traditional ones, require you to push the dough into a mould rather than roll and cut.
I hunted for a recipe that could be rolled and came across this one for brown sugar shortbread with a hint of spice. This sounded a winner! I have made shortbread biscuits before (a long time ago – pre blog) and found them tricky to roll out – these were a doddle.

The biscuit has the lovely shortness that you associate with shortbread – that crumbly butteriness, but I also really liked the addition of brown sugar gave the biscuit a rich flavour.
The hint of spice is not at all over-powering and just adds some interest in the background.

I love it when baking fills my home with lovely aromas and these biscuits are right up there with the best!
The brown sugar filled my flat with what I can only describe as a Christmassy treacle waft – the sort of delicious smell that makes you feel happy!

Hard to say how many biscuits you will get as cutter sizes vary.
This basic mix is quite generous but I made 1.5x the quantities and the recipe scales up without any problems.

Now if I may digress – here’s a little something I’m working on for Christmas dessert...I’ll
post it on the site shortly (definitely in time for Christmas). It may have taken 10 months but I’ve finally mustered up courage to use the gorgeous copper jelly tin Mr CC got me for Christmas last year.


25og unsalted butter, at room temperature
140g soft brown sugar – I used half dark brown, half light brown
250g plain flour
90g rice flour
½ teaspoon mixed spice
small pinch of salt


Beat together the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy.

Add the flours, spice and salt and mix gently until just starting to form a soft dough – I brought the dough together with my hands.

The dough will require a little light kneading to bring it into a nice, smooth, short (i.e. buttery) dough.

Cut the dough into four and wrap individually in clingfilm – shape the dough into patties as it will make it easier to roll.

Refrigerate for 20 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 160˚C/fan oven 140˚C/315˚F/Gas mark 2-3.

Lightly flour a sheet of clingfilm and roll one of the dough patties out between the clingfilm – you’re aiming for a thickness of approx ½ cm.

Use the cutter of your choice and place the biscuits on a baking sheet lined with baking paper. Leave a gap between the biscuits as they will expand – but not much.

The leftover dough will re-roll and can be used. It is very good natured for a shortbread and I re-rolled my scraps numerous times with no loss of quality.

Repeat this process with the remaining 3 patties of dough.

Bake for approximately 20 minutes or until firm to the touch – use your judgement as it all depends on your oven and the thickness of your biscuits. One tray of mine took 25 minutes, whereas another was nearer 30 minutes.

Remove from the oven and leave to cool, on the trays, for 5 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack. Biscuits are soft on coming out of the oven and if you try to lift them too soon they will crumble.

When completely cool store in an airtight container.

Decorate as you wish before serving but, to keep the biscuit crisp, leave the decorating as late as possible.

Bask in the glory at the wonderful thing you have created.


Sunday, 10 October 2010

Apple and Cinnamon cupcakes

This recipe comes from one of my newer purchases “
Love Bakery – cupcakes from the heart”.
I know, I know… it’s unlike me to buy a cook book…..ahem. This particular recipe is listed as a breakfast cake, which even I think is pushing it a little!

I wanted to make an apple cupcake and I liked the way this used grated apple ensuring a flavoursome, moist sponge – it keeps well too.
I was toying with a similar recipe I’d come across elsewhere that used virtually the same cake but with a streusel topping. I left the decision to the CCM (Caked Crusader’s Ma) who went for this one as it had buttercream and cinnamon (these are two magic words for the CCM).

This cupcake is a classic example of strong, simple flavours working well together.
I pondered whether to core the cupcake and add some apple puree but it really doesn’t need it.

On remov
ing these little cakes from the oven I did something I can’t recall ever doing before – I ate one of them. It wasn’t a problem as the mix made so many more cakes than I expected (I’m wondering whether my cases were small as I got 20 when the recipe stated 12, and I’m not exactly known for being mean with my cake!). The sponge is light as air – seriously; the only way you know you have anything in your mouth is because of the strong apple and cinnamon flavour. It’s incredible; I’ve never tasted a sponge like it. The next day it was very different – the sponge turned squidgier; it was just as delicious but a notably different texture – more like a mega-moist doughnut. So if you want them airy and spongy eat on the day of baking; if you like the sound of apple sponge doughnuts, make a day in advance!

The sponge is particularly good and I’m already thinking of other ways to use it – maybe with a custard based frosting.
Or perhaps as a larger, sandwich style cake with the buttercream between the layers.

For some extra flavour and texture I soaked some chopped apple and sultanas in apple liqueur and added this to the top of half my cupcakes.
The fruit looked like a pared-down mincemeat:

On the cupcakes topped with fruit, I piped a nest of buttercream....

...and then filled it with goodies!

You might just be able to make out the liqueur trickling down into the sponge in this shot:


For the cupcakes (the recipe said this makes 12 cupcakes but I actually got 20!):

125g unsalted butter, at room temperature
140g caster sugar
2 eggs
200g self raising flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 tablespoons milk
2 apples, peeled, cored and grated
2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

For the buttercream(I found this was plenty – even though I got 20 cupcakes!):

125g unsalted butter, at room temperature
300g icing sugar
1 tablespoon milk
2 tablespoon honey
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

Optional, to decorate: dried apple and sultanas (I soaked mine in apple liqueur but apple brandy or even plain rum or brandy would work just as well)


Preheat the oven to 180˚C/fan oven 160˚C/350˚F/Gas mark 4.

Line two cupcake pans with paper cases; this mix will make 20 generous cupcakes.

Beat together the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Don’t skimp on this stage as you’re beating air into your batter.

Gradually beat in the eggs.

Gently stir in the flour and baking powder – don’t over mix.

Gently stir in the milk.

Add the grated apple and cinnamon and stir into the batter until combined. Make sure that you’ve incorporated all the batter from the bottom of the bowl as you want the apple distributed evenly throughout the sponge.

Spoon into the paper cases and bake for approximately 20-25 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cupcakes comes out clean. Mine took 20 minutes.

Leave the cupcakes to cool on a wire rack, removing from the tin as soon as you can safely do so.

Once cool, the cupcakes will store overnight in an airtight container.

To make the buttercream: beat the butter until fluffy and pale.

Add the sifted icing sugar and milk and continue to beat until light and well combined – I always place a little of the mix on my tongue and press to the roof of my mouth; if it tastes grainy it needs more beating.

Beat in the honey and cinnamon.

Pipe onto the cupcakes and decorate, if required with the dried apple and sultanas.

Bask in the glory at the wonderful thing you have created.


Sunday, 3 October 2010

Triple ginger and spice cake

As soon as the weather turns autumnal my thoughts turn to ginger cake – it’s perfect comfort food.
Not much beats a big chunk of warming, sticky, dark ginger cake and a mug of tea – all’s right with the world! Here’s the cake straight from the oven:

For such a strong flavour, ginger appears to be universally popular.
Is there anyone who doesn’t like ginger cake? This ginger cake is for those who like it spicy and sticky. The large amounts of dark brown sugar and black treacle counter each other so it’s not an overly sweet cake but is dark and squidgy. I think you can see that from the un-iced cake:

To add some more flavour and ensure the sponge was mega-moist I brushed some of the ginger syrup from the jar of stem ginger over the top of the hot cake – it’s an adaptation of lemon cake recipes where you brush sweetened lemon juice over the hot cake.
It worked very well.

Even the icing packs some spice as it uses the syrup from the stem ginger jar rather than water or milk.
The original recipe drizzled the icing – somewhat sparingly - over the cake, in the style of a Jackson Pollock painting. When I communicated this to the CCM (Caked Crusader’s Ma) she fell silent and then said, “but I like thick icing.” Dutiful daughter that I am I trebled the quantity of icing and covered the cake! I do have to agree with her; if a cake is iced and you can see any of the top of the cake through the icing I feel deprived!

The CCD (Caked Crusader’s Da) rather stunned us all as he ate this cake.
Let’s just say that he doesn’t often amaze us with his palate or the flavours he detects in things (example of a standard comment made by the CCD – “What’s the goo on top? I like that). Today he said, “I love the treacle taste that comes through.” And we all looked at him...mouths agape!

I think using allspice rather than mixed spice was an interesting addition to this cake – it’s innate pepperiness added some punch.
In terms of flavour I’d say this is an “entry level” ginger cake, for those just dipping their tastebuds into the world of spice! Next time I make it I will stoke it up a bit more with the ground ginger.


For the cake:
250g unsalted butter
250g dark brown muscovado sugar
250g black treacle
300ml milk
2 eggs
100g stem ginger from a jar, finely chopped
375g plain flour (I used self raising in error but it didn’t seem to make much difference, in fact it might even have been better as the cake didn’t sink on cooling, which is something ginger cakes can be prone to)
2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp allspice
2 tsp ground ginger
Ginger syrup from the jar for brushing on the hot cake

For the icing:
3 tablespoons ginger syrup from the jar
300g icing sugar
Water, as necessary


Preheat oven to 160˚C/fan oven 140˚C/320˚F/gas mark 3.

Line either a 23cm square tin or a 30x20cm tin with baking paper. Don’t be tempted to use a smaller tin – this cake rises a lot during baking!

Place the butter, muscovado sugar and treacle into a large saucepan and heat gently, stirring occasionally, until the ingredients have melted and combined.

Stir in the milk then remove the pan from the hob and leave to cool until the mix is just warm, rather than hot.

Beat in the eggs; if you do this while the mix is hot you risk getting scambled eggs.

Place the chopped ginger, flour, bicarbonate of soda, allspice and ginger in a bowl and gradually stir in the contents of the saucepan. I did this in my stand mixer and had the beaters on a slow speed whilst I poured in the wet ingredients.

Pour the batter (it will be runny and also lumpy – because of the chopped ginger) into the prepared tin and bake for 1 hour before opening the oven door – this will stop the cake sinking. Test the cake with a skewer – it’s done when the skewer comes out cleanly. Mine took 1 hour 30 minutes in total.

As soon as the cake comes out of the oven brush some of the ginger syrup from the jar of stem ginger over it.

Leave to cool in the tin on a wire rack. Don’t attempt to de-tin the cake until cool as ginger cakes are particularly fragile when first out the oven.

The cake will keep, at this point, for up to a week.

On the day of serving make the icing: beat together the ingredients until smooth and glossy. Add enough water to achieve a thick, glossy icing that will ooze but not drip.

Drizzle or pour over the cake and leave to set. The cake needs nothing to accompany it other than a cup of tea.

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