Saturday, 27 March 2010

Rainbow in the sky...all the time

This week seems to have been my week for trying out new things that I've been wanting to do for ages but never got around to!! So I have been seeing quite alot of rainbow cupcakes around the blogging world and decided I wanted to have a go at this! I knew it was going to be quite alot of effort so it needed to be for a special occasion. Some of my school friends decided a few days ago they wanted to come visit me today which I was super excited about, as now that I've moved away from the town where I grew up I miss out on alot of the fun my friends are still having so I always love any chance I get to see them. They also hadn't been to our new place yet so I wanted to make it extra special! I decided I'd make afternoon tea for everyone (minus the tea of course!) and so this seemed like an exciting enough occasion to debut the rainbow cupcakes!
I whipped up Martha Stewart's white cupcakes from her cupcake book. I hoped that with them being 'white' they would soak up the colours better...although my batter didn't end up looking so white so I'm not sure if I did something wrong or if it's not a literal title like white chocolate which isn't ever actually white but more yellowy cream.

Here is what they looked like after adding some gel colour:

The batter actually coloured up really nicely with only the tiniest drop. I thought you might have to add quite alot, and was worried about how that would affect the taste of the cake but it wasn't a problem. Now the layering of the cake cases before they go into the oven is what takes the time, I didn't time myself but I'm pretty sure I spent at least an hour doing this. Adding two teaspoons of each colour, patting it down to an even layer and then repeating with the remaining four colours. I'm pretty sure you could just put blobs of different colours randomly in the cases and it would still come out like a rainbow but I wanted to go for the straight lines look. Here are the cakes fresh out of the oven:

It was pretty late by this point so I popped them safely in my cupcake courier to keep them fresh and went to bed. This morning I woke up and whipped up some vanilla buttercream courtesy of Hummingbird Bakery's cookbook. I was considering making rainbow frosting but I didn't have enough time with all my other tea party preparations!

Byron thought they should have rainbow sprinkles on too but I liked the contrast of the white against all that colour and just having a little smarties egg on top but I did a few sprinked ones to keep him happy:

and that all important cross section shot:

I love what it does to the wrapper!

Rainbow Cupcakes:
Makes 24
From Martha Stewart's Cupcakes

3 1/4 cups cake flour, sifted
1 1/2 tbsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
1 cup plus 2 tbsp semi-skimmed milk
1/2 cup plus 6 tbsp unsalted butter
1 3/4 cups caster sugar
5 large egg whites, room temperature
Gel paste in various colours: yellow, red, purple, blue, green

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C.

Sift together cake flour, baking powder and salt.  Stir vanilla into milk.
With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, cream butter until smooth.  Gradually add sugar, beating until pale and fluffy.  Reduce speed to low.
Add flour mixture in three batches, alternating with two additions of milk, and beating until just combined after each.

In another bowl, with electric mixer on high speed, whisk the egg whites until stiff peaks form (do not overmix). Fold one third of the egg whites into batter to lighten, gently fold in remaining whites in two batches.

Divide batter evenly among 5 bowls and use a few drops of gel colour in each bowl until you reach the desired colour.  Layer each colour, 2 tsp at a time, in cupcake cases. Repeat until all 5 colours have been used.  Do not fill cases more than 3/4 full.  Firmly tap the tins once on countertop to release any air bubbles.

Bake, rotating tins halfway through, until a cake tester inserted in centers comes out clean - about 18 to 20 minutes.  Let cupcakes cool in tins for 10 minutes and then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

Vanilla Frosting:
Makes enough to frost the above
From The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook

500g icing sugar, sifted
160g unsalted butter, at room temperature
50ml whole milk
a couple of drops of vanilla extract

Add half the icing sugar and half the butter to a freestanding electric mixer with a paddle attachment.  Beat on medium-slow speed until the mixture comes together and is well mixed.  Add the remaining butter and sugar and beat again until it is all combined.

Combine the milk and vanilla extract in a separate bowl, then add to the butter mixture a couple of tablespoons at a time.  Once all the milk has been incorporated, turn the mixer up to high speed.  Continue beating until the frosting is light and fluffy, at least 5 minutes.  The longer the frosting is beaten, the fluffier and lighter it becomes.

Pipe frosting onto cupcakes using a closed star tip.  Decorate with rainbow sprinkles or smarties mini eggs.

Here is our afternoon tea table...sandwiches, crisps, scones and cupcakes, and some cupcake bunting for decoration - it can't get better than that!

Thursday, 25 March 2010

I'm a convert!

Around the blog world I've noticed swiss meringue buttercream (SMB) cropping up quite alot! I've read good things and always been intrigued about trying to make some but it all sounds very grand and so perhaps that has put me off in the past. Recently I read it basically just tastes like butter (which was being described as a good thing) but that put me off a little more! I wanted my frosting to be sugary and yummy...not buttery! but I decided it was time I made up my own mind. I'm also baking some cupcakes for a wedding next week and know that SMB is very smooth and glossy in appearance so thought it may work well for the wedding cupcakes.

I decided to use the recipe from my Martha Stewart cupcake book. I was a little worried when it looked like it was curdling at one point but after a few more minutes of whipping it all came together. I started off with some uncoloured SMB that was flavoured with vanilla and frosted some of my Hummingbird vanilla cupcakes with that. I think it maybe needed whipped for a few minutes longer because if you compare it to the yellow frosting it's not quite as smooth and glossy. So then I added some yellow colour paste and frosted some in yellow too and like I said these were much glossier. I also used one of my new frosting tips on the yellow ones but I didn't like the way they turned out as much as the nozzle I used for the white ones.

When it came time to taste, I was a little disappointed. Yes it was very light and glossy but it wasn't sweet enough for my liking and it hadn't quite lived up to expectations...but then...

I decided to save a 1/3 of the frosting back and melt some chocolate and add that to the mix and WOW it was amazing!! It was seriously so delicious that I can safely say I am now a swiss meringue buttercream convert (but only of the chocolate variety!) I also tested out another new nozzle but I wasn't really loving it compared to my star nozzle. Quite alot of professional bakers seem to use the straight edged nozzle and Byron said maybe it would look better if I could do it properly! but I still think I'm going to stick to my star nozzle for now!

A cup(full of cookie)cake!

A few weeks ago I was wondering through the Oracle when out the corner of my eye I spotted these little beauties at Millie's cookies! I thought they resembled cupcakes...despite being cookies, and really wanted to try some! but I didn't have any cash on me and didn't think I could pay on card so I went on my way. A week later we went into Reading for a shop around and I purposely drew out money at the cash point so that on our way back to the car I could pick up one of these, however we spent too long eating taco's and burrito's at The Mission and we had to rush back to the car so as not to get a ticket and I missed out on trying one of these (again!)

So last night we popped in quickly to Reading and the first thing on my mind was trying one of these so imagine my horror when I realised my camera was at home on the table (as I had been snapping some cupcakes I'd baked before going out..will post those later!), which is why you're being subjected to such bad quality pictures from my phone!

The cookie cupcakes as I like to call them or cookie whirls as Millie's call them come in two flavours: chocolate chip or double chocolate chip. Then there are four choices of frosting: raspberry, vanilla, chocolate or toffee.

I went for a double chocolate with vanilla frosting. The cookie was amazing and I really enjoyed it but the frosting could have been better, but I was definitely impressed with these fun little things and would recommend them.

Sunday, 21 March 2010

Choc-chip stuffed cookies

Yesterday afternoon I was in the mood for baking...I of course was thinking of cupcakes but Byron had cookies in mind so I decided to be a good wife and try out some cookies.

I have this awesome book from my mom called 'Big fat cookies' and he picked a recipe which was choc chip stuffed cookies. The recipe called for rolling 2 tablespoons of dough into a disc, placing this on a baking tray and then adding a spoonful of choc chips on top, and finishing off with another disc on top of that - it was almost like a choc chip sandwich. It is worth nothing now, in retrospect, they probably meant 2 level tablespoons of cookie dough. I used far too much which is why my cookies have turned out like monsters, they still tasted good though!

Yesterday was also exciting because we finally got our painting we bought in Thailand framed..nearly 8 months since we got back so it's taken a while and I couldn't wait to hang it up in our new place! I love it! and have decided I defo want to get some cool art from everywhere we go on our travels.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Bangor Bound...

This past weekend we took our first trip to Bangor...North Wales for those who don't know. It was rather interesting! It suddenly hit me that when we move there in September I will no longer have London and all it's fantastic cupcakeries on my doorstep! which also means goodbye to Iron Cupcake...sad times!

We went for a nice hike in the hills and got a good view of the still snow capped Snowdon which was pretty fun.
I was rather disappointed though with the town itself...this was the only cupcake I managed to find! I was quite pleased with stumbling upon it in Costa as Rocky Road is a fave of mine, but it wasn't great..more like a muffin with mediocre icing! So Bangor didn't really deliver on the cupcake front...and I'm wondering how I'll manage to spend the next 4 years there!!

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Happy Mother's Day!

I wanted to make some cupcakes as a Mother's Day present but I didn't just want to make any old cupcakes...they had to be extra special! Initially I was going to make some key lime pie cupcakes since my mom is a huge KLP fan! (and if you like key lime pie go check out the amazing giant key lime pie cupcake that i heart cuppycakes made-it looks delish!) but I decided on lime and coconut in the end and used a recipe for coconut cupcakes from Martha Stewart and the Primrose Bakery's lime and coconut buttercream recipe.

A few days earlier I had seen some amazing cupcake bouquets made by the very talented molly bakes, you should really check them out - they are fantastic! I decided I would try and have a go I ordered some sugarcraft roses which as a rule I would never do. I generally hate anything fondant or sugarcraft, they may add a little something but they taste bad and for me it's just buttercream all the way! This is what they looked like once decorated:

I thought for a while about how you put them in your pot, I decided I would use oasis and florists wire. That really didn't work out so well, the cupcakes were just too heavy for the poor wire! so in the end I just scrunched up lots of tissue and sat the cupcakes on top and tied it all up with cellophane. It didn't really look as good as I imagined it would in my head...but Byron assured me it looked nice and I needed to stop being a perfectionist! I would like to work out a way though that I could raise up the cupcakes so they are different heights.

Here is the finished product!

It was a hit with my mom, here she is about to open it up and devour them!

I know everyone probably thinks they have the best mom in the world, but really I do. I'm afraid I win this hands down and I challenge anyone to find a better mom! My mom is the best letter writer, she writes more letters than anyone I know! When I was at Uni there wasn't a week that went by that I didn't get a note, a letter or a parcel (and of course it goes without saying the envelopes were always beautifully adorned with stickers or polka dots!!). At one point the warden of my halls of residence even asked me if I was sending myself post because I got more than anyone ever had done before! and the mail still keeps coming to this day, I have boxes and boxes filled with all of these cards and notes that I just can't seem to throw away because they show the amount of love my mom has for me! and what's been in the packages? i hear you ask, well you can guarantee it's always been polka dot or cupcake related (my two big loves)!! I owe gratitude to my mom for pretty much all my awesome cupcake belongings!! in fact if you're wondering where I got all those fantastic cupcake wrappers from in the pic at the top of this post it was from my mom!!

So I hope everyone (who lives in the UK!) has spoilt their moms today and told them how much they mean to them..I love you Mom..even more than cupcakes!!!

Monday, 8 March 2010

Mini moments..

I baked some chocolate cupcakes last week from the primrose bakery book..last time I baked them I used milk chocolate rather than dark chocolate as the recipe called for. I was disappointed they didn't look as chocolate-y as I hoped they would so this time I did it properly and used dark chocolate and they didn't taste as good as last time! you can't win! but I did frost them with my new favourite swiss white chocolate frosting and that made up for it slightly! I adorned with sprinkles and packed up in a box decorated with happy birthday wrapping paper for my Mother in law whose birthday it was.

I then got out some of my leftover mini mint oreo cupcakes from the Iron cupcake challenge that I had a trial to see how it went! and they turned out pretty good, not quite as moist as on the day of baking but good enough. I whipped up some mint oreo frosting and adorned with a choc oreo chip since I didn't have enough time to go oreo truffling again and took these along to a Fireside at church I said I'd provide cupcakes for!

Watch out later in the week for something pretty exciting I'm planning for mother's day (I hope my mom doesn't read this!)

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Iron Cupcake..a perfect pair

Another great night at Iron Cupcake, I'm so glad the caked crusader brought it to London! and I love seeing people's faces when I tell them I'm going to a cupcake competition!
I definitely thought the taste standard was higher than last time, I didn't find any inedible ones this time at least! and there were one or two I really liked. This rather yummy Toffee Apple cupcake was baked by a professional I think, and it had real apple in the middle which was a yummy surprise (check out the little caterpillar on top of it too below)! I also enjoyed a cookies n cream one filled with melted chocolate, and I have to say I really enjoyed my mint oreo one too! the truffles were delicious and I will definitely be making more of those in the future!

In the end though none of those won though! A chai tea and biscuit (pictured below on the left) entry won first prize, which we obviously didn't try and a strawberry and vanilla cupcake that hadn't stood out to us won second prize.

Here we are with our cupcake sampler for the night, let the tasting begin:

Next month's competition has a fruit theme so I could perhaps make the banoffee I was planning on for this month..although I have a feeling banoffee's could feature alot! so I'll have to get thinking.

I have also been checking out the Iron Cupcake's that happen around the world and none seem as well documented as ours, if you want to see the official write up check out the caked crusader's blog within the next few days.

Mint choc oreo cupcakes..for Iron cupcake!

So a lot of time was spent on these little beauties!! As you know I'd been planning on baking banoffee cupcakes but after making brownie balls I changed my mind and decided chocolate and mint was the way to go! and what I really wanted to do was chocolate and mint oreo but since England is pretty backwards in the selection of oreos they offer I knew I'd have to find an American shop to get me what I needed. However after much ringing around I established none of the American shops even had them in disappointing! I broadcast my frustrations on facebook and an American friend offered to send me some but since that was on Thursday they wouldn't have arrived in time! I decided to take matters into my own hands..and spent more time than it was probably worth scraping the filling from each little oreo and flavouring it mint and tinting it green! I put these at the bottom of my cases and used my fail safe chocolate oreo recipe which I borrowed from the great red deer and started the baking.

Before all of this I should mention I had already prepared my oreo balls..similar to the brownie bites but in the middle I had crushed oreo mixed with cream cheese and then dipped in mint aero with green sprinkles for decoraton. They were in the freezer setting at this point. All was going the frosting!

These cupcakes usually call for cream cheese frosting so I had planned to flavour it peppermint to match the cupcake (which I had melted a dash of mint aero in too). I decided to double the batch since I had alot of cupcakes to frost..and apparently that didn't really work! I mixed the frosting and butter first and then realised it called for tons of icing sugar..and I ran out! I couldn't go and buy any more but my lovely husband offered to wake up at 6am Monday morning to get me some! unfortunately the tesco express he went to didn't have any so I woke up to get to Sainsbury's for 7am to buy some more and then it was a mad rush to whip up a double batch of mint buttercream (I gave up on the cream cheese idea!) and still get to school on time!!

...but one taste and it was all worth it! Here's a cross section so you can see the little oreo biscuit base!


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