Cookies & Cream…. And Cake

 I’ve waited a really long time to make the Cookies and Cream cake from the Hummingbird Bakery Home Sweet Home recipe book.  Apparently I have very few friends who have a sweet enough tooth to handle this dynamic duo.  Thankfully, my friend from work had a birthday coming up, and has a seriously sweet tooth (even sweeter than mine!) so I shot-gunned cake duty and went all out on this cake.Read More »

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The 2-4-1: Strawberry Cheesecake Cupcakes

Need I say more? Even the name of these scrumptious little delights get my mouth watering, metaphorically … and a little literally!

I’ve made these cupcakes before and was more than happy to make them again; my excuse this time being that it had been a while since I’d taken anything to the office and my colleagues were suffering from baked-good-withdrawal-symptoms.  Ahem … any excuse to bake!

These cupcakes followed the pretty basic vanilla cupcake recipe; to be honest the hardest part of the challenge was not to eat all the strawberries before they could be used.  I tend to follow a one-for-you / one-for me strategy when it comes to strawberries and have resorted to buying twice the amount in the recipe just so there’s enough for everyone.

This time there was the challenge of not eating the cupcakes when I was chopping them up, and when I was distributing them among the cupcake cases. I’m a hopeless case!

Despite all these setbacks, I did manage to distribute the chopped up strawberries to all the cupcake cases and quickly filled the cases with batter  (up to 2/3rds full).  I figured this would stop me eating any more strawberries!

The cupcakes took around 25 minutes to bake – as my oven has randomly decided to take much more time to cook anything – and came out a light golden brown. Yum. The first cupcake went straight to my mum, as she didn’t want any cream-cheese frosting (wtf?!). The rest went onto a wire rack to cool down while I made my icing.

It is the icing/decoration that turns these strawberry cupcakes into cheesecake cupcakes.  I whipped up a batch of Hummingbird Bakery cream cheese frosting, and twirled it in the famous Hummingbird Bakery style.  Once this was done I crushed up a few digestive biscuits and sprinkled them on top of the icing.

The cupcakes were packed up and taken to work the next day – all 24 were gone by lunchtime!  Thankfully I did manage to get my hands on a cupcake to ‘taste test‘ before they all disappeared.

What can I say about this recipe? It’s literally a two-for-one situation: the strawberry cupcake on the bottom is tasty enough on it’s own, but add the ‘cheesecake’ part on top – what else could you want in life?

Better Than A Terry’s Chocolate Orange.

I flaked on going out with a friend the other week and promised I’d make it up to him. He decided it that I could make it up by baking something with chocolate and orange. This was when a little light bulb turned on in my head and I remembered a recipe in the Hummingbird Bakery book for Chocolate Orange cupcakes.

The surprising thing about this recipe, however, was that it also used vanilla essence … hmm. I have to admit I was a bit sceptical while making the cupcakes, I thought there would be too many different flavours going on.  But, as always, I put my trust in the Hummingbird Bakery and powered through.

The cupcakes were made in the standard Hummingbird way, mixing all the ‘wet’ ingredients e.g. butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla essence etc. with all the ‘dry’ ones.  Once everything was incorporated and the batter was smooth. I used smaller, UK sized cupcake cases and managed to get 24 cupcakes out of the batter.

 

After twenty minutes in the oven, out came some great smelling, and perfectly flat cupcakes.  I was so happy! It’s been ages since they’ve come out looking so nice.

I let them cool and made up the icing, which consisted of icing sugar, butter, cream cheese, orange zest and cocoa powder.  Now I’ve finally learnt that you can’t pipe icing with any bits in it, no matter how well you mix it. So I went for the typical Hummingbird Bakery swirl and put a few chocolate stars on each to decorate.

 

A box of these cupcakes went to work with me the next day, as I seriously doubted my friend could work his way through 24 of them.  I got to work at 9am with the intention not to try one, but I caved by 11am and had a cupcake with my tea, for taste testing reasons, of course.

Now I’ve never actually had a Terry’s Chocolate Orange, but the cupcakes taste exactly how I imagine them to be.  A colleague actually said they tasted better, and another described the cupcakes as ‘heaven’.  Well, you can’t get a compliment better than that!

Personally I really liked the taste and was pleasantly surprised that all the different flavours worked so well.  The vanilla essence actually helped to develop the orangey flavour.  The icing is beautifully smooth and unbelievably tasty.  Definitely one to bake again!

Strawberry Daiquiri Anyone? It’s edible!

It was my birthday recently and apparently there is a rule that all bakers have to bake their own cakes, although I’ve never heard of such a thing.

So I asked ‘what should I bake?’ and the vast majority said Strawberry Daiquiri cupcakes … hmm …  OK! After the great success with my mojito cupcakes last year (also during my birthday – does anyone see a pattern forming?), I was excited about trying these out.

I started by mixing the rum and some of the sugar and letting it reduce by about half; the strawberries were then chopped into small pieces and soaked in the rum for about 30 minutes. I thought I didn’t need anymore more strawberries so took a quick break to munch my way through the rest of the pack. Yum!

Once the strawberries were soaked long enough I started on the rest of the recipe; mixing together the ‘dry’ ingredients with the butter to create a crumb like mixture and whisking together the ‘wet’ ingredients.  These then get mixed together bit by bit.

I then drained the strawberries and put a few into each cupcake case.  The batter went on top they all went into the oven for about 15minutes.

Once out I drizzled the remaining rum reduction over each cupcake and left them to cool while I prepared the icing. This is when I read the ingredients for the frosting and realised I needed the strawberries I had recently eaten. Dammit! Time for a quick run to the nearest shop! My tip of the day therefore is:

Make sure you don’t need any spare ingredients before you start eating them!

With a new pack of strawberries in tow, I started making the icing by mixing the butter, icing sugar and lime zest.  4 teaspoons of rum reduction and 4 teaspoons of milk were then whisked in until it was soft and fluffy. I went for the traditional ‘Hummingbird Bakery Swirl’ with a few slices of strawberry on top. Et Voila! Alcoholic cupcakes that didn’t last 5 minutes in the office.

They were beautifully soft and creamy with a gentle kick of alcohol.  The strawberries also provided a nice difference in texture. I do, admittedly, prefer the mojito version; however I think this is due to my preference to the alcoholic beverage rather than my preference in cake.

What’s Better Than a Hot Chocolate on a Cold Winter’s Day?

I have three loves in life: music, books, and baking.  Today I got to mix two of them together.

We had a meeting at work today to discuss the amazingness of a book called ‘Pear Shaped’ that will be released in January.  Yes I used the word amazingness people, it’s that good – I started reading it last night and I had to ask my mother to hide the book from me while I write this blog.  And what is it about??? A pudding taster!

So how did this meeting connect to two of my loves?  Well, we had a great book to discuss and what better way to discuss it than over a nice afternoon tea – each person contributed and baked a cake for the meeting.

I actually had a bit of trouble choosing which cake to bake; I’m still new there so I couldn’t make anything too flashy that screamed ‘show-off’, but didn’t want to make something boring either. After spending way too much time looking at pictures in the books, I finally chose the Hot Chocolate Cupcakes.

These sound a lot more difficult to bake than they actually are; the hardest part of the recipe is heating the milk and stirring in the cocoa powder! Otherwise the recipe pretty much follows the same pattern.  Mix up the butter, sugar, flour, baking powder and salt while the chocolate milk dries; then hand whisk the eggs into the chocolate milk and pour into the ‘dry ingredients’ and whisk.

The batter was a bit runnier than what I’m used to, so you’d think pouring it into the cupcake cases wouldn’t be hard… Wrong.  I somehow managed to drop the bowl onto a few packages of empty cupcake cases, which caused a knock on effect and essentially ended up in right mess.  I had to pour some batter back into the bowl from squished cases, replace them and start again.

I finally managed to get everything wiped down and clean again; the cupcakes went into the oven for 20minutes and came out smelling like the most amazing hot chocolate.  I got told off yet again for making the house smell too yummy by family members and had to give them warm cupcakes to compensate.

Once the cupcakes cooled I moved onto the icing.  It was now around midnight and I realised that I only had half the amount of icing sugar needed. Typical.  I made do and whisked up the icing.  The lack of icing meant that any fancy ideas for piping went out the window – I resorted to the trusty ‘Hummingbird Bakery Swirl’ with some chocolate sprinkles.

I treated myself to a ‘Yay, I’ve finished’ cupcake and some milk before I collapsed into bed.  I was worried that the cake would taste like a standard chocolate cupcake and that the recipe was just a fancy name.  Thankfully I was wrong; the cake was beautifully moist and didn’t have the richness of a chocolate cupcake – it actually tasted like hot chocolate.

The cupcakes went down a treat at the afternoon tea; in fact all the cakes at the tea party were beautiful. After some strenuous taste testing, I can say that they were all lovely!   There was so much that we also managed to hold an impromptu cake sale for a charity as well. Go team!

So what, you may ask, is better than a hot chocolate on a cold winter’s day?  It’s a hot chocolate cupcake with a cuppa’ and a bloody good book on a cold winter’s night!

A Halloween Treat

For Halloween this year I was determined to make two things that were thankfully related:  carve my first pumpkin, and make pumpkin cupcakes.

Now the first part, carving my first pumpkin, was actually a lot easier than it seemed.  The hardest part was trying to get enough pumpkin out to make the cupcakes with, after that it was a case of carving without trying to cut any fingers off.

The pumpkin cupcakes were a bit harder to carry out, I firstly had no idea what pumpkin puree was or how to find it in a supermarket! Thankfully my mum came to the rescue and made some puree with the insides of my pumpkin.  Phew!

Actually making the cupcakes seemed pretty easy; you mix the ‘dry’ ingredients in one bowl, then add the ‘wet’ ingredients to the mix.  I think this is where I made two mistakes. Firstly the pumpkin puree itself seemed to have too much water in it, even though we squeezed as much moisture out as possible.  Secondly, it was really hard to mix the puree in evenly, so I must have over-mixed the batter.

The batter was spooned into the cases and into the oven for 25 minutes.  They came out sunken, which was because of the over-mixing, but otherwise smelt great.  The pumpkin and the cinnamon make a great smelling team!  Another thing I noticed however was that the bottom of the cupcake cases were really greasy; I put this down to the moisture in the pumpkin.

I made up the cream cheese frosting, twirled in the famous Hummingbird Bakery style, dusted it with cinnamon and distributed the cupcakes among neighbours and friends.  Everyone loved the taste and said it was really lovely and moist.  I had some issues however; again I think It was because of the two mistakes I made, but the cake itself seemed too moist for me and I felt like it stuck to the roof of my mouth.  Once you get past that, the actual taste is good; I’ve never had pumpkin anything before but the cinnamon used in the recipe really complimented the taste and texture of the pumpkin.

I would make these cupcakes again, even if it was purely because everyone else liked it so much, but I would take more time to perfect the puree next time.

A New Way to Make Chocolate Cupcakes

Welcome to the final instalment of this crazy cupcake trilogy.  Just a recap for those of you that are new to the blog; I agreed to bake 100 cupcakes for a big party and decided on three different Hummingbird recipes, the last of which were the scrumptious Malted Chocolate Cupcakes.

The recipe for these cupcakes are very different to your normal recipe; firstly there’s no butter. I prepared the sunflower oil/egg/buttermilk/etc. mix and the dry ingredients separately; then it was the case of adding the dry to the wet, and poured in some boiling water in as well (why I have no idea!).  Now my best tip would be to NEVER bake when tired. At this point, it was late in the day and I had to double check how much of each ingredient I put in as I kept thinking I put in the wrong amount  – basically I made a lot more drama than was necessary. Oh dear.

These finally went into 30 muffin cases and into the oven (as doubling up the recipe I always manage to get more than 24!).  Once out they were left to cool and smelt exactly the same as normal chocolate cupcakes; something I, for some reason, didn’t expect.

Now, the icing was just as confusing as the baking part of this recipe. There’s three parts to making the icing; first the chocolate chips were melted, while the cream cheese and caster sugar is mixed, and finally the cream and malted milk is whisked to make soft peaks.  What are soft peaks?!?!?! I personally had no idea and made a guess.  Luckily I actually think it was at the right point and managed to mix in the sugar and chocolate together before folding in the cream.

My biggest mistake of the whole day was that I somehow didn’t get enough malted milk (aka Horlicks for those of you who, like me, have no idea what it is), which meant that I could only make one batch of icing instead of two.  After a mini panic attack I decided to make the one batch and hope (and pray) that I could use it for 30 cupcakes instead of 12!

Someone up there was on my side and I did manage to get enough icing on all of the cupcakes; I did put this down to a few family members ‘testing’ some of them and thus reducing the number I actually needed to ice!

The cupcakes were twirled in the trusty Hummingbird Bakery style and 3 Maltesers were put on top for decoration.  Of course I bought enough Maltesers so that it would be three for a cupcake, one for me!

 

The cupcakes were actually really nice; after doing my standard taste test I realised I actually really liked the taste.  I’m not the biggest fan of chocolate cakes or icing but these were different and weren’t as rich.  I was also a bit worried about the icing because it had cream in it but it was a really nice suprise.

These were the last batch to be boxed up and shipped off to the party.  Time for a well deserved cup of tea I think; better yet, a glass of wine… maybe even a bottle!

Plum Jam In Icing? How Does That Work?!

This is what I was asked by a member of my family before tasting one of the spare cupcakes I made for the party; the concept of jam in between cakes is a normal thing for them, but jam in the icing? Now that’s new.  To be honest it’s also what I thought when making it but we’ll soon see how it went.

I had originally planned to bake Cherry Cupcakes for the second recipe in my cupcake trilogy for the party but couldn’t source the kirsch soaked cherries in time, so went for another fruity recipe.

The plum cupcake recipe was a bit different than usual; the sugar went in with the rest of the ‘wet’ ingredients and was hand whisked before it went into the dry ingredients.  By this point it was afternoon and my poor whisk was struggling a bit, especially as the plum jam had bits in it.  I finally managed to get everything mixed in the end and put the batter into muffin cases and into the oven.

One of my biggest difficulties when making a large batch of cupcakes (made 30 from doubling the recipe) is that a small amount of the ingredients stay unmixed at the bottom of my bowl.  I put this down to the fact that I have a cheap-ass whisk and a big-ass bowl. Naturally, I only realise when I’m halfway through filling the cases with batter; when this happens I just whisk up what’s left in the bowl and continue putting the batter in the cases.  I can imagine all the professional bakers glaring at me and saying offensive things about method but hey; I’m a self-professed amateur with crappy equipment!

Once out the oven, the cupcakes were much more ‘rounded’ than I’ve ever made from the recipe books.  I wasn’t sure whether this was meant to happen or because of my ‘interesting mixing tehniques’ but they were all evenly raised and thus good enough for me.

The icing also included some plum jam (hence the title).  Now when I started measuring out the jam there were lots of big bits of plum in and I decided that these wouldn’t be the nicest of surprises when biting into the icing so I took them out and continued measuring.  My whisk (and kitchen surfaces) generally hates making icing because of the layer of icing sugar that covers everything, even with a splatter guard! I did manage to get it all sorted (and wiped everything down) before icing the 30 cupcakes.

From experience, I learnt not to use any nozzles because of the bits in, so I twirled the cupcakes in the famous Hummingbird Bakery style and placed two slices of plum on the top.

 

24 of the cupcakes got packed and ready to ship off to the party, the other six were distributed among friends and colleagues.

Now for the taste test.  I didn’t actually get to taste the cupcake till two days later, as I was working my way through testing each one I made, purely for ‘research’ of course.  When I did get round to tasting the plum cupcakes, the plum slices did look a bit peaky and was actually described as a slug by a colleague, nice.  BUT it definitely did NOT taste of a slug, or how I’d imagine one to taste.  The cupcake wasn’t as sweet as I had imagined, which was a nice surprise.  It actually tasted like it had spices in it, which I put down to the jam and was actually a really nice cupcake! Not too sweet (which I do like but have to be in the mood for) but too rich in flavour that becomes too much.  Basically a really nice fruity cupcake!