Rhubarb and Custard Cupcakes

I love rhubarb – I love rhubarb so much that I have been fantasising about rhubarb vodka for months. Finally, I have some and an equally rhubarb obsessed friend to enjoy it with. As an accompaniment to our rhubarb vodka drinking this week, I thought I would make some rhubarb cupcakes (thankfully rhubarb is still just about in season) and the obvious accompaniment was custard.  These have two flavour (Rhubarb/Custard) swirled icing, with compote in the centres and a drizzle of rhubarb syrup on the top which really cuts through the sweetness.

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Ingredients:

For the cakey bit:

  • 200g unsalted butter softened
  • 200g golden caster sugar
  • 200g self raising flour
  • 3 medium eggs
  • 1 vanilla pod seeded (or 1tsp vanilla essence)

For the compote

  • 400g rhubarb
  • 4tbsp golden caster sugar

For the icing

  • 250g unsalted butter softened
  • 500g icing sugar
  • 1 tsp Vanilla essence
  • Rhubarb vodka (2 tbsp) Optional
  • Rhubarb syrup

To decorate

  • Rhubarb syrup

Method:

  1. To make the compote Put the rhubarb in a pan with 4 tbsp sugar and heat gently, covered, until tender. Uncover, turn up the heat slightly, and allow some of the juice to evaporate. Taste for sweetness, adding more sugar if necessary, then drain the rhubarb, reserving the juice (this is the rhubarb syrup). Allow to cool.
  2. Pre-heat your oven to 170c and line a cupcake/muffin tin with 12 cases
  3. Put the butter and sugar in a bowl and beat together until light and creamy making sure you use a spatular to clear down the sides
  4. Add the eggs one at a time whisking in and making sure each one is fully combined before adding the next
  5. Sift in the flour and fold in being careful not to over stir it
  6. Divide the mixture between the 12 cases but don’t fill more than 2/3
  7. Bake for approximately 20 mins until they are golden and spring and a skewer comes out clean
  8. Remove from tins and place on cooling rack
  9. When they are completely cool, core the cupcakes and spoon in the compote to the centres and replace the sponge circle.
  10. For the icing, soften the butter with your whisk, add in the icing sugar and whisk fully batch at a time
  11. Divide the icing between two bowls equally. In one bowl add the vanilla essence and a couple of drops of yellow colouring and in the other add a few tbsp of the rhubarb syrup and vodka plus a couple of drops of red food colouring
  12. Pipe on to the cakes (see tutorial below for how to do two colour icing)
  13. Drizzle some of the syrup over the cupcakes (I had to reduce the syrup down a bit more to make it more jammy)

They taste pretty good (Adrian – my fiance – says these are his new favourites)

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Inside shot:

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Also if you fancy trying this at home – I found this great tutorial for doing the two-tone icing:

Gin and Tonic Cupcakes

For the last month or so I have pretty much only been making salted caramel brownies because they are everyone’s current favourite and they freeze well and they are easy to convert to gluten free by just switching the flour and they taste so good. Anyway, finally I have made a new and exciting thing: Gin and Tonic cupcakes. Gin and tonic is by far my favourite alcoholic drink and with a friend’s party coming up I thought it was a perfect excuse to try something a bit more grown-up.

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It was based on a recipe I found on Katie Cakes but slightly modified in places:

Ingredients:

For the cakey bit:

  • 175g unsalted butter softened
  • 175g golden caster sugar
  • 175g self raising flour
  • 3 medium eggs
  • 4 tbsp tonic water (I used Fever Tree – yum)
  • 2tbsp gin (I used Hendrick’s)

For the icing

  • 250g unsalted butter softened
  • 500g icing sugar
  • Juice of one lime
  • 4tbsp gin

To decorate

  • Zest of one lime
  • 1 lime halved and thinly sliced

Method:

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 170c and line a cupcake/muffin tin with 12 cases
  2. Put the butter and sugar in a bowl and beat together until light and creamy making sure you use a spatular to clear down the sides
  3. Add the eggs one at a time whisking in and making sure each one is fully combined before adding the next
  4. Sift in the flour and fold in being careful not to over stir it
  5. Stir in the tonic water
  6. Divide the mixture between the 12 cases but don’t fill more than 2/3
  7. Bake for approximately 20 mins until they are golden and spring and a skewer comes out clean
  8. Remove from tins and place on cooling rack while they are still hot pierce each one with a skewer half a dozen times and brush as much gin as you think you can get away with
  9. For the icing, soften the butter with your whisk, add in the icing sugar and whisk fully batch at a time
  10. Squeeze in the juice of lime into the icing and add the gin. Whip again until soft and light and fluffy
  11. Pipe on to the cakes and add a slice of lime and some lime zest to decorate.

Enjoy and careful if you lick the icing bowl. I got a bit tipsy.

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Salted Caramel Popcorn Cupcakes

I have created a monster. Genuinely, I think there are some things that are probably best left in my imagination for the sake of people’s dental and pancreatic health and this is definitely one of them. I have been thinking about doing a popcorn cupcake for a while and then that morphed into a toffee popcorn cupcake and then finally I thought that actually salted caramel is way nicer than toffee so… yeah.

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It is a vanilla sponge, with a salted caramel core, salted caramel buttercream icing, Butterkist toffee popcorn and salted caramel sauce drizzled on top.

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Here, have a recipe:

Sponge:

  • 175g Softened Butter
  • 175g Golden Caster Sugar
  • 1 Vanilla Pod deseeded or scraped or whatever you call it or you can use 2 teaspoons of Vanilla Essence instead
  • 3 Large Eggs
  • 175g Self-raising Flour

Filling:

  • 2 quantities of Nigella’s salted caramel sauce (hold some back for the icing and the drizzle)

Icing:

  • 80g butter, softened
  • 400g icing sugar, sieved
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • 100g of the salted caramel

Decoration:

  • Butterkist Toffee Popcorn (or similar)
  • Few tbsp of salted caramel

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 170 C
  2. Put the butter and sugar into bowl and mix until light and fluffy. You can’t over mix it, so when you think it is done enough, do it a bit more.
  3. Scrape in the vanilla seeds (or put in the essence) and add the eggs whizzing well between each egg and scraping the sides clean
  4. Add the flour and fold into the egg/sugar/butter mixture
  5. Bake for about 18minutes but keep an eye on them from 10 minutes. They are done when they are all springy and your skewer comes out clear
  6. Leave on a cooling rack for 30 minutes or so until they are totally cool
  7. Next, take the corer or use a sharp knife to take out the centres. Push a bit of the caramel sauce into the middle of each one. Make sure you save some caramel left for the icing and for the tops of the cake.
  8. For the icing cream the butter until it is really really soft and add a small amount of the icing sugar. Keep adding icing sugar slowly, adding milk in between additions to moisten the mixture if you need to. If the mixture is too hard or looks like it is cracking when you make peaks with it, add a splash more milk. Add more icing sugar if it is too sloppy or buttery. Next add the caramel you will probably need to add bit more icing sugar was needed to stiffen it up again. Beat until fluffy and smooth.
  9. Pipe it on to the cakes starting at the outside and working in and up – you don’t have to be very neat about the icing as the popcorn covers it.
  10. Cover the top with as much popcorn as will fit and then a bit more.
  11. Get a disposable icing bag and add a few tablespoons of caramel, cut the very tip off and drizzle over the cakes to finish

And there we have it. Sorry, world.

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Dairy-Free Carrot Cupcakes with Orange ‘Butter’ Icing

Success! The lactose free/dairy free cupcakes came out absolutely fine and passed the taste test – phew!

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I made a pretty standard carrot cake sponge with all spice , orange zest and pecans which uses sunflower oil instead of butter anyway. I think it would probably be quite easy to convert this to a vegan recipe too (although I am not sure how well egg substitutes work). The ‘butter’ icing was made using Vitalite (Oooh, oooh, oh, oh Vitalite!) which I was really unsure about before I did it – I was worried it would taste funny (artificial?) and be very runny. I didn’t really find any conclusive information or success stories on the internet either, other than it was possible and better than other alternatives (except perhaps Trex but I couldn’t get that at Sainsburys) It was actually pretty easy to work with although it needs more icing sugar than normal and it tasted nice (a bit like the butter icing my mum used to make us as kids – I am now assuming she used to use marg rather than butter) to make it taste a bit more grown-up I used orange essence (I like the Nielson-Massey one) which also went well with the orange zest in the cake. I think the icing needs a bit of time to dry out (which is the opposite of what you normally want) so I am leaving them overnight and I am going to take them to the party straight from the fridge tomorrow because it is due to be super hot and I am not sure how they will do in the heat given the icing is a bit less stable than usual.

On to the recipe

The cakey bit:

  • 175g Light brown muscovado sugar (make sure it is all separated, if you put it in the microwave for 10 seconds it will help it be less clumpy)
  • 200g self-raising flour
  • 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 2 teaspoons mixed spice
  • zest 1 orange
  • Juice of 1 orange
  • 2 eggs
  • 150ml sunflower oil
  • 200g grated carrots

The icing bit:

  • 150g Vitalite dairy free margarine
  • 300g icing sugar (sifted)
  • 2 teaspoons orange essence

Method:

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4 and line a 12-hole muffin tin with cases.
  2. Zest the orange and chop the pecans
  3. In a big bowl combine together the sugar, flours, bicarbonate of soda, mixed spice and orange zest.
  4. Whisk together the eggs and oil
  5. Stir the wet stuff into the into the dry ingredients and add the orange juice, grated carrot and pecans.
  6. Put the mixtures in the cases and bake for 20-22 mins until a skewer poked in comes out clean and they are nice and bouncy on top.
  7. Make sure they are cold before icing them
  8. For the icing, whip up the Vitalite  straight from the fridge with an electric whisk until it is soft and fluffy, add the orange essence and then add the icing sugar a 100g at a time until it is holding its shape (not too soft). If it is a hot day I would put the icing in the fridge for half an hour before trying to pipe it. Pipe on to the cakes. I did rose piping today because it felt like a pretty, summery thing to do.

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Salted Caramel Brownies

This evening I did some advance baking for some friends’ birthdays at the weekend. I baked some lactose-free carrot cupcakes that I will ice on Saturday – I will share those next week assuming it is not a massive disaster. Also if anyone has any Vitalite butter icing tips, I would really appreciate them. I also made some gooey salted caramel brownies – not lactose free but you can easily make them gluten free by switching the flour. Mmm… Salted Caramel. These brownies are amazing, seriously. They don’t look as pretty as some of the other stuff I make but they taste so good.

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Again, these use Nigella’s salted caramel sauce recipe, which is super easy – no sugar thermometer required. Just remember to use decent salt.

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The caramel is added to my failsafe brownie recipe. I use this brownie recipe all the time and add in whatever I fancy (chopped up Bounties, finger of fudges, Dime Bars, pecans etc)

  • 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
  • 2 quantities of Nigella’s salted caramel (make it with slightly less cream to make sure it is thick enough) made in advance and totally cooled (although in an emergency the freezer works – don’t let it actually freeze)

Method:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Pour the cooled chocolate mixture in, then gently fold together with a spatula.Be careful not to knock the air out.
  5. 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.
  6. Pour the half the mixture into the tin and push it out into the corners making sure it is even. Then add the caramel. Try to avoid getting it too close to the edges if you can. Then add the other half of the brownie mix and smooth it over.  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 or missed a caramel seam.
  7. Leave them until they are totally cold. In this case, I mean it, they firm up and become manageable when cold. You can always reheat them later if you like.

So there you go… Enjoy!

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Piping Bags and Nozzles

A friend on Twitter has just asked what piping bags/nozzles I use so I thought I would blog about it because the question has come up a few times.

I have this ‘Professional’ piping set from Lakeland (you can order them online)

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I mainly use the top left nozzle and the first and second left on the bottom row. The bottom right makes something like looks like cowpats and I haven’t found a use for the top middle one yet. The top right is probably handy for drizzling stuff but I find a disposable piping bag with the corner cut off easier (and less washing up)

The top left is a classic swirly one that I use for most standard piping – the set comes with two of these, one big, one smaller. The bigger one looks like this:

The Originals

The bottom left is the one I used for rose piping like this because it creates thinner edges on the icing:

Rose Piping

The middle on on the bottom row is kind of in the middle between the other two and gives a more distinct edge and a bit more overlap – it always looks a bit more ‘fun’ than the others. Like this:

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But depending on the piping angle, speed and wiggle, this one can also come out like this:

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The bag that comes in with the set is absolutely rubbish and I prefer disposable bags anyway because they are less messy and feel more hygienic. I used the Tala ones from Amazon – they are only a few pounds, they are quite thick and grippy and you can use them without the nozzle with the very tip cut off to drizzle stuff (jam, caramel, lemon curd)

Jammie Dodger Cupcakes

I rarely make the same cake twice, but this week I revisited the Jammie Dodger Cupcake. It has been really sunny here and Andy Murray won Wimbledon – the first Wimbledon winner since Virginia Wade won in 1977 (and to all those who seem to have forgotten that women exist – fuck off) so it felt right to do something a bit British.

When I made them last time, they were a big hit in my office and got lots of smiles on the tube:

The Originals

This time, they turned our pretty well. I had some issues with the piping because the kitchen was boiling hot so the buttercream was both melting and drying out at the same time and because I used the wrong piping nozzle, but the sponge and filling were definitely better.

Jammie

I recently bought a cupcake corer thing from Amazon, which was just the job for filling the centres with raspberry jam. I really recommend it if you are into stuffing your cupcakes with lovely stuff.

Cupcake Corer

So they looked much neater and I could put the cake plug-bit back in the back. Also the new oven is much more consistent so they were moister and more consistent in size and colour than before. See:

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Anyway, on to the recipe. Makes about 12-16 (I use fairly big cases because I like putting people in to insta-sugar-coma)

Sponge:

  • 175g Softened Butter
  • 175g Golden Caster Sugar
  • 1 Vanilla Pod deseeded or scraped or whatever you call it or you can use 2 teaspoons of Vanilla Essence instead
  • 3 Large Eggs
  • 175g Self-raising Flour

Filling:

  • Jar of seedless raspberry jam

Icing:

  • 210g butter soften
  • 400g Icing Sugar
  • 1-2 tbsp Milk
  • Mini Jammie Dodgers (one for each cake)
  • Seedless Raspberry Jam

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 170 C
  2. Put the butter and sugar into bowl and mix until light and fluffy. You can’t over mix it, so when you think it is done enough, do it a bit more. I never remember to defrost the butter in time so I cube the butter and put it in a bowl of tepid water for 10 minutes and it comes out at perfect ‘softened’ consistency. Thanks for the tip, Mary Berry.
  3. Scrape in the vanilla seeds (or put in the essence) and add the eggs whizzing well between each egg
  4. Add the flour and fold into the mixture
  5. Bake for about 15minutes but keep an eye on them from 10 minutes. They are done when they are all springy and your skewer comes out clear
  6. Leave on a cooling rack for 30 minutes or so until they are totally cool
  7. Next, take the corer or use a sharp knife to take out the centres. Push a bit of raspberry jam into the middle of each one. Make sure you save some jam for the tops of the cake.
  8. For the icing: Beat the butter in a large bowl until soft. Add half of the icing sugar and beat until smooth. Add the remaining icing sugar bit at a time and one tablespoon of the milk and beat the mixture until creamy and smooth. If it looks too dry add more milk. It is ready when it holds a shape (i.e. drag your spatular over it and see if it stays put and doesn’t sink back)
  9. Pipe the icing on to each cake, then to decorate fill a disposable piping bag with a couple if tablespoons of jam and cut off the very tip (leaving only a tiny hole) and drizzle the jam over the icing
  10. Finish with a mini Jammie Dodger.

Ta da!

The finished thing