Lemon Twirls

This month seems to be the month of baking and birthdays; I’ve had another birthday order; and by birthday order I mean a cake present that benefits my blog (we’re happy all round, no?!).

I’ve been dreading this birthday because I knew what the birthday boy would ask for: lemon cupcakes! I love the taste of these cakes; hate grating a horrific amount of lemons.

Once again, I wanted to ‘play’ with my new cake decorating stuff so decided to make some fondant leaves to decorate the top; these were made the day before.

The recipe was an extension of the basic sponge; the only difference was the grated lemon zest.  All the dry ingredients were mixed together and all the ‘wet’ ingredients in a separate bowl.  The ‘wet’ ingredients were then slowly added and whisked up.  These were all spooned into cases and put into the oven for 20 minutes.

The smell of these cupcakes is amazing! It drove everyone in the house a bit crazy while they were cooking, especially as they weren’t getting any (oops!).  Once out of the oven, they were put aside to cool and I started working on the buttercream icing; which was the standard measures with some lemon zest and yellow food colouring.

Now at this point I was rushing, as I was already late to get ready for another person’s birthday dinner; so I got my Wilton 2D nozzle ready and started icing the cupcakes like a rose.  Can you spot my mistake?  I didn’t.  I got incredibly confused when the icing came out more like spaghetti than a rose shape; until I realised that all the lemon bits had got stuck and blocked up the nozzle.  Great.  I resorted to the fool proof Hummingbird ‘twirl’ and put the leaves on top.

The cake was described as, and I quote, beautiful.  Job done!

A Close Call With Some Tiramisu

This week a friend asked for Tiramisu cupcakes for her birthday and I thought, this is the best opportunity to play around with some cake decorating tools I’ve recently bought! So I whipped out all the lovely things I’ve bought and planned how I was going to decorate the cupcakes.

I decide on some nice red bows on top of icing piped in the shape of a rose.  Being the organised person I am I coloured my icing the day before and made some pretty amateur, but decent bows the next morning.

In terms of baking, these cupcakes were the most complicated recipe I’ve tried so far.  The cake itself was seemed simple enough and followed the basic sponge recipe.  The complicated bit came when the cupcakes came out of the oven.

First I simmered some strong coffee with some horrible smelling coffee liquor till it had reduced by half.  While that cooled; I made the icing, consisting of double cream, mascarpone cheese, and some more coffee liquor (yuk!).

Once this was ready, each cupcake had to have a hole cut out of it, soaked with some of the coffee liquor mix, then half filled with the topping.  The cut out bit was then also soaked and placed back on top.  I was very worried about how much to take out and was sure I’d get too excited and poke the knife through the bottom.

Everything went well and I finished the cakes with a newly purchased Wilton 2D nozzle and iced them in a rose shape. Finally the bows went on each cupcake and the cupcakes went in the box to store for the next day….

The next morning, I woke up to my mum preparing me for some ‘bad news’. The cakes were ruined?! I ran downstairs and to my dismay, the bows had completely melted and the red colour seeped into the icing.  Generally a total disaster!  It took a while to figure out what had happened; our conclusion is this: the topping was too moist and the fondant bows sucked up the moisture and, well, melted.

So my advice for anyone using fondant icing at any point:  DON’T MIX UP ICING WITH TOPPING! Any sort of topping that will not harden to some extent will be too soft for the fondant and cause a meltdown.

I ended up having to rush to the supermarket to re-stock and make a completely new batch! This time, there were no bows.  The new batch were boxed up, stored and to be picked up by the birthday girl. I’m personally not a fan of cream or tiramisu so I steered clear of the cakes, but the birthday girl loved them, as did the family who ate a couple spares.  I’d say it was a good recipe to try if you want a nice twist on a dessert and something completely different that will surprise your guests.  However my experience with the bows (not the cupcakes fault remember), it’ll be a very long time before I make this recipe again!

Chocolate Cupcake Madness

I’m not quite sure why but I always seem to end up baking late on Friday nights (not from a lack of social life, however!).  This week I was baking chocolate cupcakes for a birthday picnic on Saturday.

The recipe was easy enough to follow: whisk the dry ingredients together, mix the liquid ingredients together and then whisk it all up to make the batter.  The recipe always says to mix the butter, sugar, flour, baking powder etc. together as the first step.  I tend to do it a different way to make sure I don’t over-mix the flour. I mix the butter and the sugar together first before adding the rest of the ingredients.

The cakes went into muffin cases and cupcake trays (a deadly mix).  I didn’t want the cakes to blend together again from lack of support, so I put a little less batter in each case than I would normally do.  They came out perfect but hadn’t risen to the top.  One day I will be able to get it right with muffin cases… or just buy a muffin tray.

Then came the icing.  I’m sure I halved the icing as usual but am not sure how I managed to put double the amount of milk in.  Luckily this didn’t actually affect the icing and it came out well.  To be honest I may have just made a whole batch in my sleepiness and thought I had made half.  Who knows?!

The best part of baking for me is decorating the cakes.   Lot’s of blogs I read have beautifully piped roses etc. and I have become slightly envious; so I will be ordering some Wilton nozzles a.s.a.p. For now I made do with some nozzles that I found at home.

When icing frosted roses; you should apparently hold the piping bag directly above the cake, start from the middle and work your way outwards in a circle.  Sound easy? Not so much.  Some just didn’t seem to want to work, so I swirled them in the Hummingbird Bakery style instead.  Most did sort of work but it’s clear that I need a lot more practice!

I took the cupcakes to the picnic the next day and kept the box straight (so they wouldn’t get squished).  Because of the hot weather however, the icing got a bit, for lack of a better word, gooey.  Seeing my friends attempt to eat them was very funny to watch though.  They were enjoyed by every one and gobbled up.  I normally don’t like chocolate cake and these were very sweet but still yummy.

Yo Ho Ho and A Cupcake of Rum!

Every year, I beg my parents to buy me a cake from the same Iranian bakery. Last year my wish was granted but to my dismay, most of it was given away. So this year I decided to go for something completely different and make my own cake. However, me being me; I couldn’t possibly have decided on a normal choice of cake, that just wouldn’t be right.  I decided to bake alcoholic cupcakes to start the night off: welcome the Mojito cupcake.

The recipe for these cakes was definitely a bit different and I have to admit that handling alcohol at 10am did make me feel a bit queasy. Nevertheless I struggled through and managed to produce a somewhat runny batter.

The recipe says 24-30 mini muffin cases can be filled; however I used 12 normal sized cupcake cases in a normal sized cupcake tin.  I was tempted to buy the mini-muffin baking tin and cases but there was no more space in my designated baking cupboard and I was afraid I’d  get kicked out of the kitchen for taking up too much  space.

They cakes came out looking moorish and were left to cool while the icing was made.  This also included alcohol and was decorated with chopped mint and caster sugar.  The recipe made too much icing and I put the rest in a little bowl for a friend who hates cake.

Everyone absolutely loved the cakes, I was a bit worried because of the mint and alcohol in both the cake and icing but it really complimented each other and there wasn’t a strong taste of alcohol.  Will definitely be making these again and can’t wait for an excuse to make the other’s in the cocktail range

Cupcakes Fit For A King and Queen…

Well sort of!

Friday brought with it a bit of sunshine, the royal wedding and with precision timing, the flu. Brilliant.

Nevertheless I was determined to celebrate in my own little way: baking Red Velvet Cupcakes.  I was on my way to a street party and determined not to let the flu hold me down.

The ingredients for these cupcakes included white wine vinegar, which seemed a bit odd but hey; I’m not going to argue with Hummingbird!  Mixing the batter was a bit more complicated than the vanilla cupcakes and had four different parts to it: mixing the butter and sugar in one bowl, the cocoa powder, vanilla essence and food colouring in a second, the flour and salt in the third, and the bicarbonate of soda and vinegar in the last. The bicarbonate and vinegar fizz when they’re mixed together; sadly this bought me about five minutes of joy.  Oh dear.

I had two worries about the batter; first the food colouring mix was meant to turn out like a paste, but it came out quite droopy.  Secondly, the batter itself was quite thick.

Now whenever I bake, my greedy friends say the cupcakes are too small; so this time I decided to use muffin cases instead.  The recipe is for 12-16 cupcakes, but I somehow managed to fill 17 muffin cases.

The biggest tip for the day would be: DON’T USE MUFFIN CASES IN CUPCAKE TINS. You may think ‘well duh?!’ but naturally this didn’t quite occur to me when I was baking.  I managed to  over fill some  of the cupcakes and as the cases didn’t have enough support; a few decided to spread and fuse together. After spending quite a bit of time ‘sculpting’ these, I did manage to get them to resemble cupcakes again but decided they would go to the family rather than the street party.

My second mistake came with the icing; I managed to forget how much Philadelphia we had left in the house and didn’t stock up, leaving me short. Personally I blame all my shortcomings on having a cold! I also realised that shops close by 11pm on a Thursday. Shocking I know but I managed to find one  corner shop that had another brand in stock.  After twirling the icing in the famous ‘Hummingbird’ way, I used the worst shaped cupcake to decorate the icing with.  Sieving it seemed to work best.

Unfortunately, I didn’t actually make it to the street party but I think my family were happier that the cakes, or at least the one’s that that actually looked the way they should, stayed home.

The Journey Begins…

I’ve decided to kick-start this blog with the simplest recipe that appears in both books: Vanilla cupcakes with vanilla icing.  However, in the spirit of Easter, I’ve decided to make them look a bit more exciting.

The recipe in the book was easy enough to follow and used easily available ingredients (the other reason why I chose to start with this recipe).

The hardest part of baking for me is getting the measurements right.  I have temperamental weighing scales that decide to change the measurement without me adding anything! First baking suggestion would be to buy a decent set of scales.

The recipe requires you to add all the dry ingredients first and add in the rest bit by bit.  This was all simple enough to do and the batter came out looking perfect.

Get ready for the second baking tip: invest in an ice-cream scoop.  No I’m serious, it’s the perfect measure to fill up enough batter in the cupcake cases for the cakes to come out perfectly.

The cupcakes came out nice and golden, however some managed to sink a bit. You may wonder why this happens? Well its either because I over mixed the batter, or I opened the oven door before they were cooked enough.  Due to a mixture of getting over-excited and impatient, I managed to do both these things.  My saviour came in the form of icing, which nicely covers everything up and hides your flaws.

However icing sugar itself has a flaw, it covers your entire kitchen in a white dust.  I have come up with a handy tip however, cover the top of your mixing bowl with kitchen foil and make a hole in the middle for your whisk. It takes a bit of practice to gauge when all the sugar has been mixed but it drastically reduces time needed to clean up afterwards

Icing the cakes, I decided to get creative and used a piping bag with a little star shaped nozzle to make little mounds that hopefully look a bit like grass.

Then with a few mini eggs and sugar flowers (bought from the supermarket) I finished my Easter creations.