Monday, 24 January 2011

London's newest Cupcakery and cupcakes and shakes in Manchester

So I'm happy to bring you all the latest cupcake news back in the U.K, despite being halfway around the world in Turks and Caicos! This news comes via my cupcake correspondents (a.k.a. my sisters!)
My sister Mara picked up a box of 4 cupcakes last week at Selfridge's.  They were originally priced at £10 but had been reduced down to £2.50, bargain!! She told me over skype that they were from 'Sweet Couture'.  I was surprised that I had never come across this cupcake company before because I have at least heard of all the cupcakeries in London, if not tried them all.  So I did a quick bit of googling to discover Sweet Couture had just opened their first cake boutique in Covent Garden, one of my favourite areas of London! 

They opened back in November, and so of course I set Mara on a mission and after enjoying the cupcakes she brought home from Selfridge's she went to their cake boutique in Covent Garden too.

They've gone for the minimalist look inside, and they just have a small cabinet of cupcakes on display.  The report on the actual taste of the cupcakes was a good one, moist with delicious frosting - not too sweet, just the way we like our cupcakes! So if you find yourself in Covent Garden go check them out, and if you fancy going on a cupcake hunt why not check out Ella's Bakehouse and Primrose Bakery which are easily within walking distance.

My other sister Mel was finding herself in Manchester this weekend for a J.L.S concert! (a slightly unwanted anniversary present from her husband!) so how do you make the trip a little more worthwhile? visit a Cupcakery of course!! Mara and her paid Sweet Tooth Cupcakery a visit, how I wish I could have joined them! 

It looked like a really cute kitsch place that sold all kinds of fun cupcake stands.  In my opinion what makes a Cupcakery even better? if you throw milkshakes into the mix too!!

I love these old fashioned glasses!! The flavours of the milkshakes were reported as seriously tasty since Green and Black's chocolate was used, but unfortunately they were lacking in thickness.  That's a serious faux pas for us Jones girls...a milkshake has got to be thick to get our thumbs up! but I still like their idea, they also have some tasty sounding soda floats too.

All of their cupcakes are named after famous people which I thought was a fun touch! Apparently the Willy Wonka is their besteseller: a vanilla cake/chocolate frosting combo.

I have been drooling over that delicious looking 'Prince' cupcake: a chocolate and raspberry combo.
I think they have some interesting flavour combos, and not the same old ones you see all the time.
Mara tried the 'Malcolm Mclaren': a ginger cupcake with white chocolate frosting.

Mel went for the 'Priscilla': vanilla and raspberry cupcake with white chocolate frosting and there were praises all round for the tastiness of their cupcakes, and aren't the little plates so cute too! So if you find yourself in the North West of England and are in need of a cupcake fix look no further! 

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Cookie Dough be exact

Yesterday I was musing on the differences between baking in England and baking here in Turks and Caicos.  U.K eggs are brown, here they are white...U.K butter is yellow, here it is white but one of the biggest differences is our measuring systems.  Here, like in America they use cups.  Whilst back in England I used measuring scales and everything was weighed out in grams.  What got me thinking was a rather interesting science project Crazy about Cake's daughter did on measuring variations in flour when making bread.  She made three different batches of bread, one had 6% too little flour, one had 6% too much and one had the exact amount the recipe called for.  The results showed that whilst all 3 batches tasted good every taster picked out the batch of bread with the correct percentage of flour as their favourite! Can you believe that such a small error in measuring could produce those results!

It got me thinking about my baking, using cups is not really an exact science.  When that flour comes charging out of the bag as I'm filling up my cup do I scrape off the excess dome that has gathered on top? No, I just throw it all in! When that recipe calls for 1/4 teaspoon of salt, I think salt? really? in my baking...I'd rather not, and I leave it out.  The baking I produce usually tastes good but does it taste the best? because that's what I'd like to aim for! So I decided that in the spirit of Erin's experiment I'd like to start baking with exactness and sticking to recipes down to a tee, to make the BEST cupcakes I can make! Unfortunately whilst I brought half a suitcase full of baking goodies out here with me, I left my electronic scales behind - school boy error! So, I will have to begin baking with exactness still using cups and just making sure I get better at levelling out and compressing my cup full down when I'm measuring things like packed sugar! 

I have had this recipe bookmarked for about 8 months! along with the hundreds of other recipes that are bookmarked neatly in their little subfolders: truffles/pops, brownies, pies, cookies, layer cakes, cupcakes etc...and the list goes on! Maybe one day when I stop working or something I'll get around to making all of them! 

It has been circulating the blogging world for a long while now, and luckily for me Tracey decided to bake them up this week and when they popped up on my blog reader I decided enough was enough and it was really time I gave them a go! 

Considering there are four different components, they really didn't take as long as I expected and they turned out amazing! When it's a chocolate chip cupcake, filled with raw cookie dough, topped with brown sugar frosting and finished with a mini homemade cookie - how could they not be amazing?!

The chocolate chip cupcakes baked up like a dream and are such a lovely texture and still fresh as can be one day later.

The cookie dough was super quick to throw together, it was my first time using sweetened condensed milk in a cookie dough.  My guess is it's instead of the eggs so that it's okay to eat the cookie dough raw.
I baked up little mini cookies to adorn my cupcakes with and filled all the cupcakes with it raw and I still have loads left over in the fridge! Perhaps I didn't fill them as generously as I should have, either way there's going to be lots of cookie Sundaes made this week in our house!

The frosting was a brown sugar one, and it called for flour!!! Flour? I hear you say! Yes, I had never put it in frosting before either....but with my new goal in mind of baking with exactness I decided to put my trust in Tracey and follow the recipe and it turned out great! 

Tracey finished her cupcakes off with mini chocolate chips.  Here in Turks & Caicos, bags of chocolate chips cost over $6 so there was no way I was buying one bag of regular size chips and a bag of mini so I went for the pikey option and just chopped up the bigger chips into quarters to make small chips to sprinkle on top! and finished off with that cute little cookie!

I decided ruffled frosting might be becoming my new favourite way to decorate!  If you are looking for a truly indulgent cupcake in every sense of the word then you won't be disappointed with these! Happy baking!

Cookie Dough Cupcakes
Makes 24 Cupcakes

For the cupcakes:
3 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
1½ cups light brown sugar, packed
4 large eggs
2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. salt
1 cup milk
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup chocolate chips (semisweet or bittersweet)
For the filling:
4 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
6 tbsp. light brown sugar, packed
1 cup plus 2 tbsp. all-purpose flour
7 oz. sweetened condensed milk
½ tsp. vanilla extract
¼ cup mini semisweet chocolate chips
For the frosting:
3 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
¾ cup light brown sugar, packed
3½ cups confectioners’ sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
¾ tsp. salt
3 tbsp. milk
2½ tsp. vanilla extract
For decoration:
chocolate chip cookies (I made mine using the leftover cookie dough)
Chocolate chips

For the cupcakes: preheat the oven to 350° F.  Line two cupcake pans with paper liners (24 total).  In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the butter and brown sugar.  Beat together on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Mix in the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl.  Stir together to blend.  Add the dry ingredients to the mixer bowl on low speed, alternating with the milk, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients, mixing each addition just until incorporated.  Blend in the vanilla.  Fold in the chocolate chips with a spatula.
Divide the batter evenly between the prepared cupcake liners (filling about 3/4 full).   Bake for 18-20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Allow to cool in the pan 5-10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
For the cookie dough filling: combine the butter and sugar in a mixing bowl and cream on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Beat in the flour, sweetened condensed milk and vanilla until incorporated and smooth.  Stir in the chocolate chips.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until the mixture has firmed up a bit, about an hour. I refrigerated mine over night and just took it out of the fridge for 30 minutes before I filled my cupcakes.
To fill the cupcakes, cut a cone-shaped portion out of the center of each cupcake.  Fill each hole with a chunk of the chilled cookie dough mixture.
For the frosting: beat together the butter and brown sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until creamy.  Mix in the icing sugar until smooth.  Beat in the flour and salt.  Mix in the milk and vanilla extract until smooth and well blended.
For the cookies: Make 2p coin size balls of dough, (or quarters size if you're American) and flatten them with the palm of your hand.  Place them on a baking sheet and bake in a 350° F oven for about 8-12 minutes, keep checking them as they bake fast 'cause they're so tiny!
Frost the filled cupcakes as desired, sprinkling with mini chocolate chips (or regular ones if you don't have mini's - you can even chop regular ones into quarters) and top with the mini chocolate chip cookies for decoration.

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Knowing me, Knowing you...ah-ha!

A few days ago Katie of Apple and Spice gave me a blog award which comes with 10 questions to answer. As I simply can't do a blog post without pictures, I tried to add some fun ones along the way to keep you interested in all my ramblings and my over use of the exclamation mark!

Why did you create the blog? 

I can sum up my answer in one sentence - because I'm crazy about cupcakes! and I wanted to share my love of cupcakes with the world through baking them, writing reviews about them and letting everyone know what's going on in the world of cupcakes! 

What kind of blogs do you follow?

Basically any blog that bakes up delicious desserts is one that I will follow! I'm not a fan of food blogs that showcase savoury products...snore! It's all about high amounts of sugar for me! I currently follow over 140 blogs and counting....I find new and delicious blogs on a weekly basis! My other favourite kind of blogs to follow are ones showcasing dessert bars and ideas for making a real show-stopper of a party! If you enjoy those too here are some of my fave - Save the Date for CupcakesHalf Baked and My Sweet and Saucy

Favourite makeup brand?

That would have to be Benefit, and I'll throw Philosophy in there too.  I know technically they're not a make up brand but they make the best lip glosses!
Below are the 3 Benefit products I cannot live without:
Favourite clothing brand?

I'm going to go with a tie between Hollister and Junk Food, I love all of Hollister's Tees since I'm California obsessed and Junk Food have a great range of Root Beer/A&W/U.S.A tees that I just love! 
Your indispensable makeup product?

I'm going to have to go with lipgloss! I never leave the house without it! Back in the U.K I would leave the house with alot more products than that on my skin but here on Island I can just put a slick of lipgloss on and I'm good to go! 

I'm adding this Philosophy peppermint bark lipgloss to my wishlist right now!

Your favourite colour?

If my blog header and background hasn't already given it away, it's purple just like Katie! I am a purple fiend...everything looks better in purple in my opinion! Here is just a small selection of some of my tagged pictures on facebook to give you a glimpse into my colour biased wardrobe! Some day when I'm rich enough to own two KitchenAids, the boysenberry coloured one will be mine! for now I'm happy with my lime green beaut! 

Your perfume?

It has to be Harajuku Lovers by Gwen Stefani! You may not know but I am Gwen obsessed...luckily my obsession has grown out of having to own every piece of Gwen and No Doubt memorabilia possible - ebay sure did make alot of money off me in my teens! but old habits die hard and when I saw she was bringing out this cute little perfume range I just had to have the 'Gwen' fragrance.  I would have loved it even if it didn't smell good...but the bonus is it smells AMAZING! It is a sunny tropical fragrance with hints of coconut and jasmine, and did I mention about the super cute bottles it comes in! The great thing is every season they bring out a different Gwen, like the 'Snow bunny' Gwen I got last year for Christmas and this year the Gwen I got had furry hair and everything! 

Your favourite film?
So I know I should be writing something inspiring and thought provoking in this space here...but the truth of the matter is it's Grease 2! It's a classic and was one of the most watched films in our house growing up! I wanted to be a pink lady and I wanted a cool rider...who didn't! 

What country would you like to visit and why?
You all know the country I most want to live in is America...San Diego to be more specific but since I'm hoping that's all part of my life plan already then where I would like to visit at this moment in time is  Hawaii.  I love the sunshine and I love the beach and my husband loves the waves so we'd check off all 3 of those boxes if we took a visit there.  We're currently living on an Island with daily sunshine and beautiful beaches all around but Providenciales is famous for having flat glass like water so if you're looking to surf you'd be better going to Hawaii! The other difference that we'd find in Hawaii is they actually have shops! not just shops, whole shopping centres! They have Taco Bell, Walmart!! Awesome diners, Cupcakeries and all the other American chains I love! but one of my most important (and geeky) reasons why I want to visit Hawaii is for the Volcanoes! Ever since my days of G.C.S.E geography I have been fascinated by volcanoes and on Hawaii you can come face to face with Kilauea, one of the most active volcanoes in the world! How awesome would that be!
Make up the last question and answer it yourself
Which recipes from my blog do you need to bake a.s.a.p?
If you're a brownie lover, then you need to bake these Chocolate Mint Oreo Brownies
If you're into bars, these Rocky Road Bars are hands down my favourite crowd pleaser! 
If you need to bake that someone special the most delicious Chocolate Layer Cake ever...look no further.
If you are OREO crazy, then you simply must make these Oreo Truffles and while you're at it why not make them into toppers for your Oreo cupcakes too! Don't stop there...whip up this Mint Oreo Ice Cream Pie just to top it all off, it'll be a definite cure for your Oreo cravings!
Finally for all the CUPCAKE LOVERS out there, if you're in the mood for a moist fruity cupcake then the Hummingbird is a must, if chocolate is more your thing Martha's Brownie Cupcakes NEVER fail to excite people's taste buds.  Finally, my favourite frosting ever - the Vanilla Bean Paste masterpiece, and you might us well whip up some Root Beer Float Cupcakes to accompany it! 

Now go get baking!

I would like to pass this award and 10 question challenge onto the following 10 bloggers:

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Brownie cookies...when even a sunset stroll on the beach can't cure your blues!

So today was a bad day...a very bad day, let's not repeat it again anytime soon.  There is really only one cure for bad days and that's baking up something delicious to console yourself with! So when I found the recipe that was going to cure my blues, from my hundreds of bookmarked recipes, I stared in horror at the 3 eggs looking back at me from my egg carton because wouldn't you just know it my recipe called for 4! 

I was about to go into major panic mode when I realised rather rationally I could just split the recipe in half...problem solved! I then had another minor panic when I discovered the only baking chocolate left in my fridge was unsweetened chocolate.  In my British naivety I had bought it once upon a time mistaking it for dark chocolate, baked up some cupcakes with it and soon discovered it did not make them taste very nice at all! Unsweetened chocolate for all my UK counterparts is not the same as bittersweet chocolate (my mistake) because it is in fact 100% cocoa solids so it has no sugar or vanilla in it at all to sweeten it up a little.  After a quick bit of googling I found if i just increased the sugar proportions in the recipe all would be well...however I was a little skeptical before they went in the oven at their almost black colour and very dark taste (I hate dark chocolate as a side note!) so I really wasn't expecting great things.  In a last ditch attempt to save them I threw in some chopped up white chunks of chocolate and crossed my fingers and put them in the oven.

I found the brownie cookie recipe here from the My Baking Addiction blog which you need to check out if you've never come across it before, it is awesome! While your at it check out the Snickers Brownies she baked up just the other day too...they have been bookmarked for sure!

Unfortunately my suspicions were confirmed! The cookies tasted far too rich and 'dark' for my liking when they came out the oven! It seemed the extra sugar hadn't really done the trick! By still thoroughly enjoyed them and I was able to eat some mixed together with some vanilla ice cream but I wouldn't really recommend baking my version with unsweetened chocolate unless you are someone who loves DARK chocolate, otherwise stick to the original recipe and make sure you have the correct chocolate to bake them with!

Friday, 7 January 2011

Peppermint Crisp Fridge Tart...baie lekker!

So you all know by now my love for English chocolate! and the huge supply my sister brought over for us before Christmas is nearly all gone...sad times! but one of my favourite chocolate bars of all time is actually South African.  When I visited family in South Africa last year, a whole bag full of Peppermint Crisps greeted me on my arrival! and I even got to try a Peppermint Crisp cupcake while I was there at one of their amazing cupcakeries! 

Well my South African mom knows of my love for peppermint crisps and so along with all the English chocolate that was sent over for us she also included 2 beloved Peppermint Crisps that she got from a South African shop in Shropshire where she lives.  If I'd had my way they would have been devoured the minute they came out of my sisters suitcase, but my South African husband requested that I use them to bake up a delicious Peppermint Crisp Fridge Tart! 

I've used Peppermint Crisps a few times in my previous baking.  Back in my early days of blogging I used them along with another South African food, Romany Creams, to make Romany Minty Choc Dessert and for my minty birthday dessert bar I used them to garnish the top of my mini mint cupcakes but why did I wait so long to make this amazing dessert! It was full of caramel, minty and coconutty goodness - how can you go wrong! 

First step is to crush up some 'Tennis biscuits' to form your bottom layer.  Tennis biscuits are another South African delicacy and whilst it would have been quite easy to pick up a pack of them at a South African shop had I been making this recipe back in the U.K, there are definitely no S.A stockists like that on this island! so I went to the supermarket hoping to find a suitable replacement.  The only biscuits I could find that had coconut in were chips ahoy chocolate chip cookies - the coconut variety! They're not ideal but they worked well all the same! 

Then you whip up your 'Orley Whip' another South African product.  You can substitute it with Cool Whip if you live in the States or double cream if you're a Brit.  You beat in your dulche de leche and get this amazing looking tastiness in your bowl! 

Then you add my favourite part: those little green crystal like gems of Peppermint Crisp and mix them in.

After that you're ready to begin the layering process.  Add a layer of caramel mixture on top of your biscuits, and then repeat with another biscuit layer and finish with a caramel layer.  

Not forgetting that all important sprinkling of Peppermint Crisp on the top just to finish it all off! The hard part is leaving it in the fridge for 4 hours afterwards to set, we did some serious clock watching in those four hours let me tell you! 

If you are wanting to make this dessert, and believe me you should! and you are in the UK but not fortunate enough to live close to a South African shop (where are you living?! those shops are everywhere!) then you can buy them online cheaply here and you can even get the Tennis biscuits on that site too if you want to make it the true South African way! 

This is the blog that helped me make the wishes of my husband come true! It's a great blog with lots of South African recipes on there, you should definitely check it out. 

Peppermint Crisp Fridge Tart:
Serves 8
From Cook Sister

250ml Orley Whip, whipped
2 packets of Tennis biscuits (although you will probably use less)
375g caramelised condensed milk
20ml caster sugar
3 Peppermint Crisp bars, crushed
3-4 drops of peppermint extract (more, if you like)

Whip the Orley Whip and then add the caramelised condensed milk caster sugar and peppermint essence.  Beat until well mixed and then stir in 2/3 of the crushed Peppermint Crisp.
Place a layer of whole tennis biscuits in a buttered 29x19x5cm dish.  Spoon 1/3 of the caramel mix over the biscuits and spread evenly.  Continue in layers, finishing with a layer of filling on top.
Refrigerate for at least 4 hours.  Decorate by sprinkling the remainder of crushed peppermint crisp on top.  Cut into squares and serve.


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