I am really into cooking with apple and toffee-ish flavours at the moment because it is all autumny and lovely. I have also been baking a lot of cakes using old recipes lately so wanted to try something new. I bake bread quite often, I just don’t blog about it because it is usually less fun than cake but these Chelsea buns were a bit too lovely to not talk about. I made them for my team at work to have for Monday breakfast.
Ever since I ate a cupcake with Italian meringue buttercream, I knew I had to learn to make it. It was so creamy and light and grown up – less like icing and more like the nicest mousse in the world. The thing is, it really difficult to make – it uses Italian meringue (boiling sugar poured and whisked into egg whites to cook them), you need a sugar thermometer and to handle boily sugar without melting your skin off. On the surface of it, these cupcakes look pretty simple but actually the icing has taken a lot of fiddling and practice to get them right. The first test I did, there seemed to be too much butter in the recipe I used and I poured in the boiling sugar incorrectly so it clumped at the bottom. The second attempt (this one) was much better.
To make the buttercream you are going to need a stand mixer – I think you might be able to try it with a hand whisk but I needed two hands to get the boiling sugar in safely whilst whisking all the time. I have a Kenwood KMix (a beautiful white one which goes with my shiny white kitchen) which is probably my most used kitchen item, I turn it on at least 3 or 4 times a week. We do bread, pizza dough, biscuits, cake, brownies etc. in it. It had been a toss up between that and an Artisan but I think the Artisan looks a bit twee, it is much more expensive for almost no additional benefit and my granddad worked for Kenwood his whole life so I have some deeply rooted brand loyalty, Isn’t it beautiful? I still tell it that I love it from time to time.
Anyway on to the cake – I made lemon sponge with a lemon curd centre, lemon italian meringue buttercream and homemade chocolate buttons on top.
For the buttercream (this makes enough for about 24 cakes; it is worth making lots and then freezing the rest if you are doing less cakes)
- 375g white caster sugar
- 1 tbsp golden syrup
- 100ml water
- 6 egg whites
- 600g soften unsalted butter in 2cm-ish chunks
For lemon curd buttercream add:
- Zest of 2 lemons
- Juice of two lemons
- 3 tbsp of Lemon Curd
- Put sugar, golden syrup and water in a medium heavy bottomed saucepan and stir until totally combined. Brush the inside of the saucepan with clean water on a damp pastry brush to dislodge any stray grains. Set over high heat and bring to a rapid boil. When the sugar mixture has come to the boil add a sugar thermometer and keep cooking until it reaches will into soft ball stage, 121°C.
- Meanwhile put the carefully separated egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer (with a whisk attachment) and whisk the egg whites to soft peaks – be careful not to over whisk. Then slowly pour a steady stream of sugar syrup into the egg whites, being careful not to hit the whisk while doing so – I find pouring down the side of the bowl is the easiest way of doing this. Continue whisking until sides of the bowl feel cool. Add the softened butter chunk at a time one by one at a time and whip until fully incorporated and smooth
- Mix in zest, juice and lemon curd for lemon flavour icing.
For the cake (makes about 16)
- 250g unsalted softened butter
- 250g golden caster sugar
- 250g self-raising flour
- 4 eggs
- Zest of 1 lemon
- Juice of 1 lemon
For the filling
- Jar of Lemon Curd
For the buttons
- White chocolate
- Pre-heat your oven to 180c (I have always used an oven thermometer to check because most ovens are way out – except my brand new oven. That is perfect) and put some cases in a muffin tin or two
- Beat together the butter and sugar until pale and creamy, then add the eggs, one at a time, beating thoroughly after each one. Sift in the flour and then add the lemon zest and the juice of one lemon and mix until well combined.
- Spoon it into the cupcake mix into the cases for about 2/3 full. I use an ice-cream scoop (I have 3 in different sizes and this ensures they are all exactly the same)
- Bake for about 15 – 18 ish minutes but keep an eye on them from around 12 minutes
- When they are beginning to look golden and are springy to the touch they can come out
- For the filling, core out your cupcakes using either a corer or a sharp knife, put a teaspoon of lemon curd in each one and replace the tops
- To make the chocolate buttons, gentle melt the white chocolate and pour into silicone button mold like this one from Amazon
- 185g unsalted butter
- 200g decent chocolate (I use one bar of Green and Blacks dark and one milk)
- 85g plain flour (regular or gluten-free Doves Farm)
- 40g cocoa powder
- 3 large eggs
- 275g golden caster sugar
For the cheesecake bit:
- 400g full fat cream cheese
- 125g caster sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 150g Speculoos biscuit paste (optional – these are pretty good as just cheesecake brownies, if you prefer)
- Cut butter into cubes and put into a pyrex type bowl with the chocolate (broken into small pieces) Melt them together by putting the bowl over a pan of simmering water but make sure the water doesn’t touch the bottom of the bowl. Stir occasionally until they are combined. You can also do this by shoving it in the microwave but watch it really closely because chocolate burns easily. Leave the melted mixture to cool to room temperature.
- While it is cooling – put all the ingredients for the cheesecake bit into a bowl and whisk until fluffy and fully combined. Leave in the fridge until you are ready to use it
- Pre-heat the oven to 160c. Line your tin with tin foil or baking parchment. I use a tin that is about 6 x 12 inches.
- Break the eggs into your bowl and add in the golden caster sugar whisk on high until light and thick and creamy – it should become pale and double in volume. It takes a while and is the most important step, this is what makes them light.
- Pour the cooled chocolate mixture in, then gently fold together with a spatula.Be careful not to knock the air out.
- Add in the sifted cocoa and flour mixture and fold in really gently until just combined. If you are making regular brownies, now would be the time to add in chopped up chocolate bars and whatever else you fancy.
- Pour the three-quarters mixture into the tin and push it out into the corners making sure it is even. Then add the cheesecake mix on blobs with a spoon. Add the remaining brownie mix in dollops with a spoon and then bang the tin hard a couple of times on the kitchen side to level it out. Use a skewer to marble the mix. Pop it in the oven. Bake for 25-30 minutes or so. To test if it is done shake the tin a bit, it shouldn’t wobble like jelly. I find the skewer test a bit redundant for brownie making because if it comes out clean you have probably over cooked them
- Leave them until they are totally cold and the cheesecake sets properly
- Store in the fridge because the cheesecake bit.
Hurrah! It was my birthday on Friday. Happy Birthday to me and what a very happy birthday it was. I had some friends over on Friday night to christen our new house and celebrate. I am still recovering – best night ever and all that. I don’t think I have had a birthday cake since I lived at home 15 years ago so I decided this year that I would make my own (with help from A on the washing up). And, if I have to make my own birthday cake I am going to make it both amazing and offensive. I give you the amazing FUCK cake.
I used this chocolate, caramel and vanilla ombre cake recipe from BBC Good Food but sandwiched it with homemade salted caramel sauce (the usual Nigella recipe) – it was pretty tasty and I think the ground almonds made it particularly moist. Also when you cut it, you get impressive layers. Yay!
The biggest challenge was finding the multicoloured strands/sprinkles – weirdly everywhere was out of stock. I could find metallic ball ones and pink ones (because baking is only for little girls or something – URGH) but not the basic kind. Found them eventually and used letter cookie cutters placed onto the chocolate ganache to make the letters.
The best endorsement of this cake came from a Christian school friend who said: “I’m offended by a chocolate cake. Well this is definitely a first!!!!” – My work here is done, people. Done.
For part 2 of my Dutch cupcake series, I made stroopwafel cupcakes. Stroopwafels are those delicious biscuits with caramel in the middle that come from the Netherlands or Starbucks or a corner shop in Mile End. Sainsbury’s in Tooting sell them. They are usually best served warmed over a cup of coffee or made into a cupcake. I made a cinnamon sponge, with a caramel core and cinnamon and caramel icing topped with a mini Stroopwafel. Served in a Delft blue cupcake case – very Dutch, ja?
Anyway, on to the recipe (makes 12 big-ish ones)
For the sponge:
- 200g softened butter
- 200g self raising flour
- 200g soft brown sugar
- 3 large eggs
- 1tsp cinnamon
For the caramel filling:
- 2 quantities of Nigella’s salted caramel sauce making it with just enough salt to cut away the sweetness but not enough to be fully salted caramel (hold some back for the icing and decorating)
For the icing:
- 80g butter, softened
- 400g icing sugar, sieved
- 3 tablespoons milk
- 100g of the salted caramel
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- Mini stroopwafels or chunks of the big ones
- Preheat the oven to 170c and line a muffin tin with 12 good size cupcake cases
- Cream together the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy
- Add the eggs, one at a time and beat really well after each one. Pro Tip: making sure the eggs are at room temperature will stop it curdling but if it does add a tablespoon of the flour to bring it together
- Sift together the flour and cinnamon and add this gradually and fold in until just combined
- Fill your cases to about two-thirds full
- Bake for 18 minutes or until they spring back when touched. Leave to cool slightly before putting on to a cooling rack.
- When the cakes are totally cold core out the middle and fill with the caramel.
- For the icing cream the butter and caramel until it is really really soft and add a small amount of the icing sugar and the cinnamon (taste as you go to see if you need more). Keep adding icing sugar slowly, adding milk in between additions to moisten the mixture if you need to. Add more icing sugar if it is too sloppy or buttery. Beat until fluffy and smooth.
- Pipe it on to the cakes
- Get a disposable icing bag and add a few tablespoons of caramel, cut the very tip off and drizzle over the cakes and finish with a mini-stroopwafel
These got really good reviews in my office and lots of happy noises.
The week before last I was in Amsterdam. I was mainly working but I did manage to visit a supermarket and stock up on some amazing Dutch delicacies. I have a bit of a thing about Speculaas biscuits (or Speculoos, depending on your country) and I have been hankering after a jar or three of Speculoos paste for ages although I hear you can buy it in Waitrose. So I came back with a suitcase full and OMG it is so tasty. It is like Nutella but make of ground up biscuits, I am not sure you are supposed to just spoon it out of the jar but yeah… it happened.
Anyway, to stop myself just scoffing the lot, I decided to make Speculoos/Speculaas cupcakes. I had seen a few recipes online (mainly in French) but in the end just made something up. They turned our pretty well:
So here we go (if you want to bake along at home)
For the cake:
- 100g softened butter
- 150g Speculoos paste
- 200g sifted self-raising flour
- 200g soft brown sugar
- 3 large eggs
For the icing:
- 100g butter softened
- 100g Speculoos paste
- 400g icing sugar
- drop of milk (if needed)
- Speculaas/Speculoos biscuits
- Pre-heat the oven to 160c and line a muffin tray with about 12 large cupcake cases
- Cream together the butter and Speculoos paste until totally combined
- Add in the sugar and cream together until light and fluffy
- Add the eggs in one at a time mixing thoroughly after each one
- Add in the sifted flour and fold in until just combined
- Fill the cupcake cases about 2/3 full (I use an ice-cream scoop for this to make sure they are all the same size)
- Bake for about 18 – 20 minutes or until they are springy to the touch
- Allow to cool properly before icing or it melts or slips off
- For the icing, cream together the butter and Speculoos paste and add the icing sugar in batches. Add a drop of milk if needed to keep it smooth.
- Pipe on to the cakes and add a shard of speculaas biscuit to decorate.
So tasty. I also made Stoopwafel cupcakes! Post to follow.
I invented a new cupcake – a totally new one, I think, that no-one has ever done before. I present to you the Clover Club cupcake. A clover club is a delicious cocktail first given to me by an amazingly lovely woman called Kat. It is made with gin, raspberries, lemon and egg white and tastes like summer, alcoholic summer. So for Kat’s housewarming I thought Clover Club cupcakes needed to be a thing. I made a raspberry sponge and then put a gin and lemon drizzle on top, with lemon cream cheese icing and a very alcoholic raspberry and gin coulis.
If you want to try this at home here is the recipe (don’t eat them all – you will get a hangover)
For the cake:
- 200g unsalted butter softened
- 200g golden caster sugar
- 200g self raising flour
- 3 medium eggs
- 1 small punnet of raspberries washed and patted dry with kitchen paper
For the drizzle
- 80g sugar
- juice of 1.5 lemons
- 2 tbsp gin
For the icing
- 200g full fat Philadelphia
- 200g butter
- 500g icing sugar
- 2 tbsp gin (feel free to use more and add more icing sugar)
- 1 punnet of raspberries
- 3 tbsp caster sugar
- 2 tbsp gin (or much more if you want to knock people out)
- Preheat the oven to 175˚C/gas 4. Start with the icing, beat butter until creamy and then add the cream cheese straight from the fridge and mix in the bowl until smooth.Add in icing sugar, lemon juice and gin and beat until smooth. Do not over beat because cream cheese icing can split. Put it back in the fridge to chill until a bit set.
- For the cupcakes, cream butter, sugar in a bowl. Whisk in beaten eggs on by one mixing thoroughly after each addition, sift in flour and fold it in carefully until just combined. Spoon batter into muffin cases in a muffin tray. Drop 3 raspberries into each cupcake. Bake for 15 minutes, until golden brown.
- For the coulis, put the raspberries, sugar, water and gin in a small pan over a low head. Cook until the raspberries breakdown and it is nice and thick. Strain the coulis through a sieve to remove the seeds. I then added more gin and reduced it again, for funs.
- For the drizzle, combine the lemon juice, sugar and gin and mix well
- Once the baked cupcakes have cooled for 10 minutes, spoon sugar syrup while over the top while they are still slightly warm and allow to cool totally.
- Pipe the icing onto each cupcake. Put the coulis into a plastic bag and remove the very corner and drizzle over the top. Finish with a raspberry.
I also made some more gin and tonic ones for the party – the recipe for those is a few blog posts back.
Coming soon – I spent the a couple of days in Amsterdam so I have speculoos paste and biscuits and stroopwafels to turn into cupcakes.