Archive for the 'cupcakes' Category

Chocolate ganache cupcakes

I have long-since accepted the fact that I am a giant kid, and always will be. My favorite joke is a horse walks into a bar and the barman says “why the long face?”, I have fluorescent-pink pyjamas with monkey faces on them, and I introduce myself as an ass-istant accountant quite frequently. (I am also in hysterics when people used the word stool, I just can’t help myself) I suspect this is why Frank and I get on so well.

my special cupcake money-box

One of the important things Frank taught me (that my brother tried for years to teach me, but I was too young to pick up the lesson) is how to laugh at myself. Or, how to not be embarrassed in public. When we went shopping, Frank would disappear down an isle while I was still talking to him, and I would turn around with a leg of lamb and ask the stranger behind me if he/she thinks we should have this for dinner. At first I was embarrassed, but over time I realized that if I can’t beat him I’ll join him!

On a trip to Dan Murphy’s the other month they were playing cracking eighties songs over the radio. And this is when I discovered that Frank gets slightly embarrassed when I dance in the aisles! (Although between you and me, I think it is my dancing, and not dancing in general, that gets him embarrassed) He also thought it was funny to put the wine in the front seat so I couldn’t get in. So I sat in the back and made him chauffeur me home.

As I am a giant kid, I cannot let a birthday go by unnoticed. We get lovely cakes at work for our birthdays, but I’m so used to making something that I have decided to make chocolate cupcakes for my line manager’s birthday. I have never made cupcakes with ganache, so below is my first attempt. Everyone loved them!

Chocolate ganache cupcakes – recipe from “Cupcake Magic” by Kate Shirazi

1/2 cup self-raising flour
1/2 cup good quality cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup castor sugar
1/2 cup margarine, softened
2 eggs
2 tbsp milk
200ml thickened cream
200g good quality dark chocolate

Break chocolate up in a medium bowl. Warm cream on the stove until almost boiling, then pour over chocolate and leave to melt for 10 mins. Stir until smooth and pop in the fridge to cool.

Preheat oven to 180C/160C fan-forced, and line a 12-hole muffin tin. Sift flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and castor sugar into a large bowl. Add in margarine, eggs and milk; and beat until light and fluffy. Divide mixture between 12 muffin cases, and bake for 20 mins until the tops are firm. Remove from the pan and let cool.

Once cool, spread ganache over cakes. Decorate as you wish!


Lemon curd cupcakes for a special little girl

I am the baby in my family. I have a very tall older brother who goes by the name of Dude, who was my hero and tormentor (sorry Dude) until I was old enough to run fast. Now that we are both adults (well, perhaps only some of the time) he is no longer my tormentor, but still manages to be my hero.

I was, and always will be, the baby sister in his eyes. When we were kids it was because I was always much smaller and knew less about the world than he did. Now it is because I am much shorter and know less about the world than he does! Being the baby sister has its benefits. When we were at the same university all his friends knew me and called me by the same nickname as Dude did. So I knew when someone was yelling “Snollie!” across campus it would either be Dude or one of his friends. (I seem to have a runny nose frequently, hence the name) Because they were his friends, and I was his baby sister, they began to treat me like their baby sister too. And I was lucky enough to gain some extra family members in the process!

When Dude started University he met a guy called Swede in his class. Swede is a wonderful guy from, you guessed it, Sweden. He and Chris used to party together, often telling us he was “too old for this sh*t”. On one of their nights out they met a beautiful girl called Nix, who became a regular in the crowd. After a few years of knowing each other (and my mom predicting it), Nix and Swede fell in love and got married. Swede and Mrs Swede then moved across the globe, eventually ending up in Australia.

When I moved over here, it was a comfort to know that I had family already here. Swede and Mrs Swede have always been honorary members of our family, and I know my parents and Dude feel exactly the same way. Mrs Swede (as mentioned in my sponge cake post) is an amazing chef. AMAZING. She has been a big influence in my cooking, and Frank and I get very excited when we go to the Swedes for a visit.

As of Monday at 4:30am there has been a new addition to the Swede clan of three. (The Swedes have one gorgeous mini-Swede already) To celebrate, I decided to put my new-found cupcake decorating skills to the test. Luckily I had bought new pink and purple food colouring last week, and some little flower cutters, so I was ready to go! Using my favorite recipe, I made some lemon cupcakes. I cut little pockets in them and filled them up with fresh lemon curd. Once the tops were on I covered and decorated them with fondant. Now they will be taken to see the new addition tomorrow morning, I can’t wait!

Lemon fondant cupcakes – adapted from “Little cakes with attitude” by Kate Shirazi

1 cup self-raising flour, sifted
1/2 cup castor sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup soft margarine
2 eggs
zest of two lemons
1 tbsp lemon juice

jar fresh lemon curd
fondant icing
selection of food colours

Preheat oven to 180C/ 160C fan-forced and line a 12-hole muffin tin. Put all cupcakes ingredients in a bowl and beat until light and fluffy. Fill muffin cups and bake in oven for 20 minutes, until firm to the touch.

Take out and cool. Once cooled, cut holes into top of cakes and fill with lemon curd.

Put the tops on and cover in fondant. Colour and cut out extra fondant and decorate cakes. Enjoy!

Cupcake on Foodista

Cupcake decorating class @ my favorite store!

I am incredibly lucky. My parents hold a strong belief in education and its value in changing one’s life for the better. Regardless of what we wanted to do in life, my dad was always keen to support our further education. And unlike many of my uni mates, I came out of a degree with no debt thanks to my kind and long-suffering parents.

To this day, my brother and I continue to further our education. My brother has chosen the path of hard work and crazy hours to complete some incredible qualifications, while I have chosen the path of sugar and baked goods to get some better looking products coming out of the Pig Palace kitchen! As Mom says, whatever floats our boats…

When we first moved into the UK edition of the Pig Palace (Pig Mansions), I was keen to teach myself how to make things. When put to the test, I think we humans have the capability to learn anything. I managed to teach myself how to make sushi rolls, but there was one skill that continued to elude me: working with fondant/sugar paste/plastic icing. I came home one day with a packet of blue fondant and a manky old sponge cake, and told Frank that I was going to teach myself to cover sponge like a master. When looking at the disastrous result, Frank couldn’t keep the laughter out of his voice (and he is normally very good at keeping a straight face), it looked utterly ridiculous. We took a photo, and when I find it I will post it for you all to have a good chuckle over. I think sometimes we have to admit defeat and call for professional help.

My board, ready to go

And cue the Essential Ingredient!! As I spend many a free hour in this store, I noticed they had cupcake decorating classes. As the classes work with fondant, I thought I’d sign up and get rid of the mystery of fondant. As the class books up quickly I had to wait over a month to get stuck in! As yesterday dawned I eagerly packed my apron (not the fake Masterchef one, Boss-man said that might come across as slightly arrogant…) and my camera and hit the road.

leaves, shells and stars - practice run only!

Arriving at the store I was welcomed into the classroom by Sandra, the fondant guru. Our tables were layed out with three un-iced cupcakes, piping bags and lots of little tools. As I was early I whipped out the camera and started setting up so I wouldn’t miss a thing – until I realised I hadn’t put the card in the camera. And I had no spares. So all the photos on this post were taken with my new devil-phone (still getting used to the “smart” phone, I am resisting technology) and aren’t of the same quality as normal.

cupcake no. 1, buttercream swirl

Sandra showed us the way with buttercream, taught us how to cover cupcakes with fondant, how to colour fondant and how to pipe leaves and letters. For a 2-hour-long class I learned all the skills I was looking to master, and it left me wanting to learn more. Sandra was a fantastic teacher and made everything look simple.

cupcake no. 2, leaves

AND I came away with a mini piping set and three rather snazzy-looking cakes! (Which were promptly consumed by my defacto niece. She loved the flowers though, a girl after my own heart)

cupcake no. 3, the Sophie special!

Wanting advice on a cake I was making for Ferret’s birthday, I was guided by Sandra after the class to the decorating isle and given lots of good advice (and I spent lots of money on fun decorating thing). If you’re looking to learn the basics of buttercream and fondant, I would highly recommend this class. It is great for rookies and intermediates alike!

Details of all classes can be found and booked on their website.

The Essential Ingredient
731-735 Darling Street
NSW 2039

Tel: (02) 9555 8300

Black forest lollcakes

Back in June, when Mama C and I hit the local food stores of Newcastle, I picked up a lot of speciality ingredients that sounded wonderful. The only problem was, I had no idea what to do with them. Having faith (or blind hope) that an opportunity to use all my goodies would present itself in time, I pushed all my new things into the grocery cupboard.

When passing the preserves isle on that fateful trip in June, I saw my favorite jam on special. Not knowing which flavour to choose, I picked the fruit that sounded the most delicious – cherry. Despite the fact that I’ve never tasted it or that I don’t eat jam very often these days, I thought it was a great idea. Now every time I open the cupboard to get the oats out (good for the heart and they warm us up, yum!) I see a beautiful little jar of cherry conserve winking at me from the top shelf. And I have to use it!!

Tomorrow is my last day in my current company. Our gang at ‘No Care’ has been through some very tough times, but we’ve had a lot of fun along the way. To celebrate my second-last day, and to spoil those I am going to miss (while the ones I’m not going to miss are away) I decided to make cupcakes. As the gang has tasted a lot of my cupcakes in the past six months, I wanted to do something a little different. I don’t think I’ve met a person that doesn’t like black forest cake. Even though the name reminds me of a laxative (Black forest tea. Don’t leave the tea bag in for too long apparently…) the cake is amazing. But what about black forest cupcakes eh? A perfect excuse to use the cherry conserve in the cupboard!

Taking my favorite basic cupcake recipe, I tweaked it to make the cupcakes extra chocolate-y. I mixed the cheery conserve with the smallest drop of brandy and used it as a filling. If you can find cherry brandy, it would be ideal, but no-one near me seemed to stock it. Lastly I topped it with whipped cream and some grated chocolate, and voila! Black Forest lollcakes…

Black Forest cupcakes – recipe adapted from “Cupcake Magic” by Kate Shirazi

1/2 cup self-raising flour
1/2 cup good quality cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup castor sugar
1/2 cup margarine, softened
2 eggs
2 tbsp milk
300ml thickened cream
4 tbsp cherry conserve
1-2 tsp brandy/cherry brandy
1 tbsp icing sugar

Preheat oven to 180C/160C fan-forced, and line a 12-hole muffin tin. Sift flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and castor sugar into a large bowl. Add in margarine, eggs and milk; and beat until light and fluffy.

Divide mixture between 12 muffin cases, and bake for 20 mins until the tops are firm. Remove from the pan and let cool. While cooling, mix the cherry conserve with the brandy. Whip the cream with icing sugar until stiff.

Cut pockets into cupcake, fill with cherry mix, and pop the tops back on. Put cream into a piping bag and pipe swirls on top of the cakes. Sprinkle grated chocolate on top. (and pop on a cherry if you have, I didn’t…) And enjoy!

Seasonal cupcakes

On a good day I quite fancy myself as an accurate predictor of baby gender. When my sister-in-law was pregnant, Beets had a dream that she was having a girl, and therefore I told my sister-in-law throughout her pregnancy that she was having a girl. And what do you know, I was right! So, guessing correcting, I did the required “I told you so” dance. Of course I am in Sydney and they are in London, so it didn’t have the same effect.

Next up was LL. I was convinced that she was having a girl, despite what everyone else said. I was right before, so of course I was going to be right again! She had a boy, and I was wrong. I was running on a 50/50 tally, which didn’t stop me from believing I could predict genders. My latest prediction was for Frank’s sister: I said “girl” again, and when she went into labour this morning I decided I was going to make her cupcakes to have in the hospital. But what colour to ice the cakes? I wisely asked Frank if he wanted to change his prediction to a girl, and if he thought I should ice the cupcakes pink. His response was: “ice them pink, and if you’re right you get to gloat tomorrow when we go in, and if you’re wrong we get to laugh at you.” Just before I was due to make the icing this evening we received a call from Mama C telling us that TW has just had a baby boy. And as sad as I am that I was wrong AGAIN, I am very overjoyed that little JTW is here safely, and that I hadn’t iced the cupcakes pink!

As citrus fruit is in season at the moment, and I have an abundance of the little darlings in my dining room, I thought I would make some orange and lemon cupcakes.  I picked up some orange blossom water while on a shopping spree with Mama C, and was keen to try it. Proud Daddy MW loves any cupcakes I make, so I thought I’d give it a go and no matter what I would have an appreciative audience!

As a base, I used my ever-faithful vanilla cupcake recipe. I left out the vanilla, and added in the zest of two of Papa C’s navel oranges and a tablespoon of the juice.  Once baked and cooled, I used an apple-corer to take out a little bit of the centre of each cake. A knife is normally recommended to hollow out cakes for filling, but I didn’t want to add too much filling so I only made small hollows. Once hollowed, I filled each cupcake with a spoonful of freshly made lemon curd and popped the top back on. I then make some buttercream icing with orange juice and 2 teaspoons of orange blossom water, and tinted it blue. Lastly I used a big star tip to ice buttercream swirls on top of the cakes.

I made 13 cupcakes, as I needed my honest-oppinion-giver to give it a taste test before I inflicted it on the family. I believe his response was: “mumble mumble mumble” *swallow mouthful of cake* “you done good.”

Seasonal cupcakes – adapted from basic cupcakes in “Little cakes with attitude” by Kate Shirazi

1 cup self-raising flour
1/2 cup caster sugar
1/2 cup margarine
2 large free-range eggs
1 tsp baking powder
rind of two oranges
1 tbsp orange juice

Preheat oven to 160 degrees C. Line a 12-hole muffin pan with cupcake cases. Sift flour and sugar into a large bowl. Plonk the rest of the cake ingredients and whisk away until pale and fluffy (I would use an electric whisk).

Plop a tablespoon of the batter into the cases and bake in the oven for 20 minutes until firm and springy to the touch. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Hollow out with a knife, fill with lemon curd and put the tops back on.

Orange blossom buttercream icing

1 1/2 cups icing sugar, sifted
1/2 cup soft unsalted butter
1.5 tsp orange blossom water
1 tsp orange juice

Beat everything in a large bowl for a few minutes until light and fluffy. Add food colouring to your heart’s content. (I used royal blue colouring)

P.S. Starry night cupcakes

As I type my blog from the Pig Palace office (aka a laptop, on a stable-table, on my lap, on the bed) I realise I haven’t show-cased my quick “starry night” cupcakes! I used the same recipe as features in the ladybugs and cupcakes post, I just tinted the icing purple and got my little sparkies out. I used a very simple idea, I just felt like something representative of the night tonight! (and I ran out of icing as I didn’t make as much. oops.)

Ladybugs and cupcakes

I think I might be slightly crazy. And with the amount of cursing and mumbling coming out of the Pig Palace kitchen today, Frank agrees. As I was humming “I am a woman, on a mission”, I began the ambitious task of making two chocolate gateaux cakes (one with buttercream icing, and one with ganache), one batch of muffin-sized cupcakes and 16 mini-cupcakes. All in a morning. And why, I hear you ask? It is birthday weekend of course!

In January I volunteered to make a cake for Frank’s beautiful niece for her 6th birthday. As D-day (or shall I say B-day… ;)) is tomorrow, I gave her the option two weeks ago of choosing what themed cake she would like. With dread in my stomach I suspected she’ll ask for a Barbie cake (as this is all I wanted as a kid), but much to my relief she has requested a ladybug cake. PHEW. As the cake is being baked for a party, I have added some cupcakes to go with the ladybug to feed all the hungry little mouths.

For some reason, I seemed to have forgotten to bring my baking mojo into the kitchen this morning. In the course of the day I dropped cakes on the floor, I threw icing on the walls, I shut a Tupperware container straight onto the buttercream swirls of the cupcakes, and I dropped my new piping set from a dizzy height so that all the new nozzles migrates to places I’ll only discover in a year. When I drop something else.

First up: the cupcakes and mini-cupcakes.

I used my favorite recipe that got me into loving cupcakes in the first place. I made 1.5 batches, and this amount made 12 chocolate-y cupcakes and 16 mini-cupcakes.

For some reason the cakes pulled away from their cases as soon as they were taken out the oven, so in a McGyver moment  I tied a little pink ribbon on each of them to hold them in place.

I iced the cupcakes with vanilla buttercream, stuck a slice of marshmallow on top, and iced letters on top of the marshmallow. With the mini-cupcakes I simply piped a buttercream swirl and added some sprinkles. Just in case you wondered, Frank’s niece loves pink!

cupcakes with lettering

mini-cupcakes with buttercream swirls

Next up: the gateaux cake. I needed to make it into the shape of a ladybug, but last time I used a normal round tin the ladybug looked a bit sad. After doing a bit of research I decided to use my metal mixing bowl instead, which turned out rather well if I may say so myself! (I also got some great advice from the staff at The Essential Ingredient to line my bowl so the cake actually comes out)

I iced the ladybug with the same vanilla buttercream, used slices of marshmallows for the eyes, and licorice laces for the legs and lines on it’s back. For the final touch I added some edible glitter, and now it’s the fanciest ladybug around!

Ta daaaah!

The ladybug doesn’t have its feelers or legs yet, those will come tomorrow when it’s set up at the party. The big challenge will be tomorrow, when Frank and I have to get across Sydney with a cake, 12 cupcakes and 16 mini-cupcakes on my lap!

And what happened to the cake with chocolate ganache icing? That is for Frank’s Mom’s birthday on Monday. I’ll be icing the cake tomorrow night so stay tuned for some more photos…

Chocolate Cupcakes – recipe from “Little cakes with attitude” by Kate Shirazi

3/4 cup self-raising flour
4 tbsp cocoa powder
1/2 cup caster sugar
1/2 cup margarine
2 large free-range eggs
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp milk

Preheat oven to 170 degrees C. Line a 12-hole muffin pan with cupcake cases. Sift flour, cocoa powder and sugar into a large bowl. Plonk all the cake ingredients and whisk away until pale and fluffy (I would use an electric whisk).

Plop a tablespoon of the batter into the cases and bake in the oven for 20 minutes until firm and springy to the touch. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

Vanilla buttercream icing

1 1/2 cups icing sugar, sifted
1/2 cup soft unsalted butter
1 tsp vanilla extract

Beat everything in a large bowl for a few minutes until light and fluffy. Add food colouring to your heart’s content. (I used rose pink and licorice colouring)

Chocolate gateaux cake – recipe from BBC Good Food website

200g good quality dark chocolate , about 60% cocoa solids
200g butter , cut in pieces
1 tbsp instant coffee granules
85g self-raising flour
85g plain flour
1⁄4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
200g light muscovado sugar
200g golden caster sugar
25g cocoa powder
3 medium eggs
75ml buttermilk (5 tbsp)
grated chocolate or curls, to decorate

Butter a 20cm round cake tin and line the base. Preheat the oven to fan 140C/conventional 160C/ gas 3. Break the chocolate in pieces into a medium, heavy-based pan. Tip in the butter, then mix the coffee granules into 125ml/4fl oz cold water and pour into the pan. Warm through over a low heat just until everything is melted – don’t overheat. Or melt in the microwave on Medium for about 5 minutes, stirring half way through.
While the chocolate is melting, mix the two flours, bicarbonate of soda, sugars and cocoa in a big bowl, mixing with your hands to get rid of any lumps. Beat the eggs in a bowl and stir in the buttermilk.
Now pour the melted chocolate mixture and the egg mixture into the flour mixture, stirring just until everything is well blended and you have a smooth, quite runny consistency. Pour this into the tin and bake for 1 hour 25- 1 hour 30 minutes – if you push a skewer in the centre it should come out clean and the top should feel firm (don’t worry if it cracks a bit). Leave to cool in the tin (don’t worry if it dips slightly), then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

P.S. Below is a photo of the finished Ladybug with her legs and feelers!

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