Thursday, December 23, 2010

'Tis The Season!

I can't believe it's only one-and-a-bit days until Christmas! The good news is, I actually think I'm all organised. For once. The tree is up, the presents are all wrapped, cards have been sent and received, and all the Christmas baking has been done. I'm even half way through preparing my contribution to the family party on Christmas night (dessert - did you guess?).

Who knows? We might even get that quiet, relaxing Christmas Eve I've been aiming for (and missing entirely) these last few years!

In the meantime, I thought I'd share this recipe with you. Nowadays it seems to me that every man and his dog make something that looks similar to these little "mini puddings". But as far as I can tell, most of those recipes involve either a) using leftover actual Christmas pudding/cake; or b) just decorating a plain chocolate truffle to look like a pudding. Both of which would be delicious, I'm sure, but they're just not the same thing as the ones I grew up with. This recipe gives a nod to Christmas pudding by its use of currants and brandy (and the decoration, obviously). But The Hero here is the chocolate/brandy combination. They are very chocolatey and yummy. And there's still time to give them a try!

Mini Pudding Truffles

190g currants
1/4 cup brandy
250g chocolate cake crumbs (this can be any old chocolate cake, it doesn't have to be fancy)
1/2 tsp orange zest
1/3 cup icing sugar
125g dark chocolate, melted
100g white chocolate Melts (maybe "bark" in America?? Whatever white chocolate product you'd use to coat something with, anyway)
2 tsp oil
180g extra white Melts (these ones need to be round - see picture)
4 - 5 spearmint leaf lollies
2 - 3 red glace cherries

The first thing to do is soak the currants in the brandy for At Least one hour (overnight is even better if you have time).
When the soaking time is up, crumble your chocolate cake into fine crumbs, then add icing sugar, dark chocolate, and the currants WITH their soaking liquid.

Mix together, and then roll the mixture into small balls and refrigerate for half an hour. Note: this is not the easiest mixture to roll, due to the currants, which spend most of their time pursuing freedom from chocolate captivity (one must ask oneself WHY?). I find it's more a case of squeezing them into balls, rather than rolling per se.

While the balls are chilling, get yourself a small sharp knife, and start cutting up your cherries and mint leaf lollies (you can also use green glace cherries or angelica, but personally I think the mint leaves taste better and are easier to cut). Cut them as you will, keeping in mind that they are supposed to end up looking vaguely like holly. Here is ours this year:

Very geometrical. Maybe a little bit too much so - maybe a more organic vibe would have been better, as per previous years. But triangles were easy. And hey, they're still cute.

Next, melt the 100g white chocolate Melts, and use a drop of this to "glue" one of your chocolate balls onto an intact white chocolate Melt (ie the "extra" 180g are for the bases). Repeat. Once your little "puddings" all have bases to sit on, they are ready for decorating.

Drizzle a little of the melted white chocolate Melts onto the top of each truffle, and add a piece of cherry and two pieces of mint leaf - voila! Holly! With this step you will need to work only two or three truffles at a time - because they are cold, you only have a limited window of opportunity until the white Melts solidify, at which point obviously your "holly" won't stick anymore.

I realise this probably sounds all very complicated. It isn't. My three year old did a sterling job of sticking the "holly" on (see above).

And that's it - all you have to do now is a taste test! I encourage you to give these a whirl - they really do taste good, but honestly? For me the best thing about them is they're so darn cute. And when they're on a plate with lots of brown things (cookies, other chocolate things, etc), they really do inject some Christmas spirit!

And I should mention that I did not create this recipe! It was cut out of a magazine of some sort many years ago by my grandmother. So I'd love to credit its creator, but unfortunately I don't know who he/she was...

Merry Christmas everyone - I hope you and yours have a happy and safe holiday season!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Muffin Tin Monday - Christmas "Presents"!

Yesterday was Muffin Tin Monday (the last week of the "Holidays" theme), but I have been having computer ISSUES, hence my late post. Still, Better Late Than Never, right?

Anyway, in week 1 of the Holidays theme, Lizz of "A Little Bit of This & That" came up with the coolest idea - she wrapped her muffin tin compartments! And I thought to myself, That is awesome; I Shall Steal That Idea.

So I did. Here is our tin for this week:

Now the only problem with this idea was that I very stupidly thought it would be a marvellous idea if the whole thing was a Lovely Surprise. The Muffin had had a late night the night before and was, shall we say, fractious. She did not take well to being excluded from the filling of the tin. There Were Tears. So of course I felt awful (as the whole idea was that it would be fun, not distressing), and let her help after all. The great irony being that her excitement and apparent sense of wonder in opening the compartments seemed to be not at all lessened by the fact that she knew what was in there beforehand. So a lesson was learned. By me. ie Do Not Get Between A Budding Junior Masterchef And "Her" Kitchen.
The Muffin took great delight in opening each "present" one at a time and eating some of its contents before opening the next, and I forgot to take a photo before "wrapping" it. So this photo is sort of a "during" shot - some of each thing has already been eaten.
Top Row: Cheese & bacon muffin; Apricots & cherries; The Mystery Dessert Item (only not so much of a mystery as she chose it. But the suspense seemed to remain intact nevertheless)
Bottom Row: Carrots; Spinachy yoghurt dipping sauce; Macaroni cheese.
And finally, the unveiling of the dessert compartment:
A mini pudding truffle. These are really yummy (and no, they're not made out of actual Christmas pudding). Recipe later, I promise.
The After Shot:

Despite the initial drama, a success! (she left about half the macaroni cheese, but between that and the muffin, this was a fairly carbs-heavy lunch, so I didn't expect her to finish it).

To see what other mums did this week, go here.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Muffin Tin Monday - Christmas #2

Yesterday was Muffin Tin Monday, and the theme was Christmas again! I tried to include a fair bit of fruit this time, as we were baking our Christmas goodies yesterday, so there was a fair bit of ingredient-sampling going on. I figured her lunch could do with some vitamin involvement...

So here goes:

Top Row: Apple stars (and the pieces the stars were cut from, cause they were pretty too); apricots; cherries.
Bottom Row: Cheese Christmas tree with olive "presents" hiding underneath; Gingerbread man shaped cheese & ham sandwich with mini-M&M features; Cheese tree with olives again.
The After Shot:
'Nuff said.
To see what other mums did this week, go here: Muffin Tin Mom.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Muffin Tin Monday - Christmas Snowman

Yes! It is Muffin Tin Monday - but if you're not interested in that, scroll down a bit, because today I am giving you two posts for the price of one, and the other one is an awesome recipe for REAL Melting Moments!

But back to lunchtime - the theme for the next three weeks is Holidays (ie Christmas, Hannukah, etc), which means for us it's Christmas!

The Muffin is super-excited about the approach of Christmas, and it's really cute as it's the first time she's really had any long-term excitement/anticipation about it. Such fun!

So here's our first Christmas-themed Muffin Tin Meal - a Snowman Scene:
Top Row: Apple stars and banana slices; Sparkly cheese shooting star (with edible glitter - you can't really see it in the photo, but The Muffin thought it was awesome), also some stray banana slices; Chocolate egg (Disney Princess Kinder-Surprise-type thing, already belonging to The Muffin - sigh. I swear one day I'm going to do one of these without sugar in it).
Bottom Row: Plain yoghurt with a few Christmas sprinkles on top; Snowman shaped Vegemite & cheese sandwich with sprinkle face & buttons; Tree/Plant made out of spinach leaves.
The After Shot:

I know you're probably thinking that the spinach leaves were ambitious to start with, but she actually a) requested at the shop the other day that we purchase "leaves" specifically for MTM, and b) reminded me whilst I was making the lunch "don't forget the leaves, Mummy!" But in the end, she only ate two.

Then again... She ate two! It's all in the way you look at it, I guess.

This was a very popular tin. Check out what other people did by heading over to the Muffin Tin Mom - hey, why not make a tin yourself next week? :o)

The Real Deal

There are in life a number of things that are almost always disappointing. Office Christmas party Secret Santa gifts, for instance. For me, a lot of these things are baked goods. Cupcakes that are beautifully decorated, but the first bite of which reveals they are clearly made from box mix. Lemon meringue pie bought at a cafe. And the worst offender? Melting Moments.

Oh, yes. You know what I'm talking about, you horrid rock-hard tasteless cookie, you. Sitting up there in a glass jar on the counter of the coffee shop, looking all tasty.

Well fear not, readers. Because I'm going to share with you The Best Melting Moments In The Known Universe (as determined by me). Now I didn't create this recipe - I got it from my mother, and I daresay she got it out of a cookbook somewhere. But damn, it's good. I have altered it this much: by the addition of lemon zest, and by making up the icing as I go along.

Melting Moments

250g butter
1/3 cup icing sugar
225g Plain flour
1/2 cup cornflour
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon

Cream butter, sugar & lemon zest together. Sift flours into mixture and combine.

Roll mixture lightly into small balls, and place on a lined baking tray. Flatten each slightly with a fork, as shown:

Bake at 180 degrees Celsius for 10 - 12 minutes, or until they are juuuuust starting to get a touch of colour around the edges (you want more or less the whole cookie to stay pale).

(As you can see in this picture, I was messing around and thought I'd try making some chocolate ones by substituting some of the plain flour for cocoa powder. They were good too, but the lemon ones are still my favourite)
Next, make your icing. You can play around with this and make it to your own taste, but essentially you want some combination of icing sugar, lemon juice and a little butter. I like it to have a noticeable zing from the lemon juice. The only thing to keep in mind is that it does need to be very thick. And if you want it to set hardish (which you do if you're like me), then not too much butter - the icing should be quite white.
Then just spread a decent amount on one biscuit...

... then sandwich with another, and leave to set. Then put the kettle on!

Oh, yeah. These are The Real Deal - just like your nanna used to make.
But be warned: Once you taste these, you'll never eat one from a cafe again...

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Muffin Tin Monday

I know some of you are probably thinking, "oh not again. I came here to look at cake". It is kind of turning into a Muffin Tin Monday blog, isn't it?

But fear not, dear readers - there is sugar on the way, I swear. But I beg your indulgence just for a moment, as it is indeed Muffin Tin Monday again. This week there was no theme (although as The Muffin pointed out, "it looks like it's circles again, Mummy!" This was completely unintentional!).

Top Row: Buttered pikelets; grapes (and a few mini floral lollies from a party loot bag); more pikelets.
Bottom Row: Carrot circles; Dip made from cooked beetroot, yoghurt, lemon juice & garlic; cheese faces.

The After Shot:

As you can see, she left some carrots, but I gave her quite a lot of them this time, so I was actually quite impressed by how many she did eat. She ate more of the dip than this picture makes it look, although less than I thought she might. She liked it though - had the rest on her fish at dinner time! :o) This dip was actually so yummy that I'm giving you the recipe (which I made up, hence the vagueness with quantities - but you really can adjust everything to taste anyway):-

Beetroot Yoghurt Dip

Grate 1 fresh raw beetroot, and combine in a small saucepan with 1 or 2 teaspoons of butter, a dribble of water and a pinch of salt. Cover & cook on medium-low heat for 10 minutes (but make sure it doesn't boil dry as this will cause it to burn). Take lid off and boil off any excess liquid. Set aside to cool slightly. Next combine about 1/3 cup of natural yoghurt, a little bit of raw crushed garlic and a squeeze of lemon juice. Add beetroot & blitz with a stick mixer until smooth. Taste & adjust seasoning.

Note: this dip turned out quite runny. If you want it thicker (and if you can be bothered), you could drain the yoghurt overnight first. Or just add less yoghurt.

To check out more Muffin Tin meals, head over to The Muffin Tin Mom, to see what other mummies did this week!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Muffin Tin Monday - Flowers!

It's Muffin Tin Monday again! The Muffin really looks forward to these already. Each Monday morning she says "Mummy, what day is it?" with this cagey look on her face. Then when I say Monday she gets a big grin on her face and says "will it be Muffin Tin Monday?"
The theme was Thanksgiving this week, but as we don't celebrate that in Australia, I made up my own theme for this tin - flowers!
Top Row: Plain yoghurt with grapes; Cheese & tomato sauce sandwich; bananas & berries.
Bottom Row: Cucumber flowers; Cheese & tomato sauce sandwich; leftover sausage.
The After Shot:-

Woo-hoo! The cucumber-hating child ate 4 cucumber flowers, announcing "I don't like them on their own. But I do like them if I dip them in the yoghurt."

Now head on over to check out the tins other mummies made today: Muffin Tin Mom.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Muffin Tin Monday - The Food Pyramid

This week's theme for Muffin Tin Monday was "The Food Pyramid / Nutrition". As I have never introduced The Muffin to the idea of the Food Pyramid before, I thought the Pyramid theme sounded more fun than just a healthier-than-usual lunch.

So here is my take on the Food Pyramid theme:
Bottom row: Carrot circles (flushed with my first success last week); Vegemite sandwiches; same again; grapes. (ie. Wholegrains, vegies, fruit)
Middle row: Natural yoghurt with a little lime juice & salt added (for dipping carrots); egg poached directly in the silicon cupcake liner (oh wow, this is the coolest idea EVER). (ie. Dairy & protein)
Top row: Contents of a fun-size box of Smarties. (ie. Sometimes-foods)

I also printed out a picture of a simple version of the Food Pyramid that I found on the web, and while we prepared and ate our lunch we discussed which types of food are good for us, which ones we should only eat occasionally, etc. The Muffin enjoyed comparing the Food Pyramid picture with her lunch version, and spotting the foods she was eating on the picture.

Can You Spot The Irony: I know, I know, the theme is about being healthy, and my daughter ate a whole box of Smarties. Which seems A Bit Weird. The thing is, I actually wanted to put some kind of sweetie in this one so that I could make the point about there being less of those than of other types of food. And the Smarties were from a birthday party loot bag she got recently, so I figured she would have eaten them eventually anyway.

The after shot:

The Muffin ate almost everything, but left half her egg, as it was overcooked. "I like my eggs runny, mummy. This one is hard." Yeah, I couldn't blame her really. Poached eggs are an art form that I have not mastered at all. I'm getting better with them - occasionally I even produce The Perfect Poached Egg. But clearly not today.

Anyway, if you want to check out what Muffin Tin Meals were made by other mummies today, head on over to Muffin Tin Mom's blog - why not even join the fun next week?

Monday, November 8, 2010

My first Muffin Tin Monday

So in an attempt to coerce The Muffin into eating some new (and hopefully healthy) things, and also (let's Be Honest) because I think it's rather fun, I have decided to join Muffin Tin Mondays!

This is a really cool idea, hosted by Michelle of Muffin Tin Mom. Essentially it's very simple: Put Your Child's Lunch In A Muffin Tin. Instant Fun Ensues. And guess what - it actually works!

This week there was no theme, so I made up my own: Circles. And here it is:

Top row: Vegemite sandwiches; same again; buttered pikelets.
Bottom row: Carrot circles; Yoghurt & spinach dipping sauce; Blackcurrants & a marshmallow.

And she ate almost all of it! "After" shot:

Woo hoo! And this is a child who never eats raw carrot. She loved dipping them in the sauce.

The verdict? Muffin Tin Mondays are here to stay.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Happy Hallowe'en

So, we have gummi "horror mix" lollies for the guests, a bagful of marshmallow eyeballs for trick-or-treaters (yeah, just the one bag - not that many people celebrate The Spooky Season here. We'll probably have significant leftovers), and the Muffin is getting about in a witch hat.

It must be All Hallow's Eve.

Huzzah! Yet another excuse for baking!! The Muffin and I made these cute ghostie cupcakes - chocolate mud cake with an oozy strawberry filling (made by pureeing fresh strawberries and adding a little gelatine), chocolate frosting, and a sugarpaste spook (made with a cookie cutter).

They bleed in a very satisfactory manner when you bite them.

We also made fruit mince pies with little pumpkin faces on. See? Pumpkin faces = not Christmas food! Really!! (that's what I'm trying to tell myself, anyway...)

Happy Hallowe'en everyone!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

It's Cupcake Hero, Honey!

And the roundup is up. So head on over to I Dream In Buttercream to check out all the sweet-as-honey entries, and to cast your vote!
My entry is my "Sunny Honey" lavender & honey cupcakes, inspired by my very own garden - check them out here.
You only have until the 27th of October to vote, so get to it!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

A bit of Springtime Sunshine...

Yes, while the Northern Hemispherical blogging world buzzes with pumpkins and falling leaves, down here in Australia we are halfway through Spring, and the weather is glorious!

As I look out my window, I see our lime trees springing once more into flower (seriously, these things do not let up - anyone have any New And Interesting ideas for using up lots of limes??). I see our rhubarb plant growing stronger, leaving behind the puny, spindly stalks that freaked me out so much in the chilly days of Winter. I see the dove that has its egg-filled nest in our kaffir lime tree, picking its way around the base of the tree for seeds (or bugs?) to eat. I see sunshine, blue skies, and butterflies. And dancing joyfully in the breeze, sending its heady scented invitation out to all the butterflies and bees that frequent its plentiful blossoms, I see this:

Lavender. Lots and lots of beautiful French Lavender. It looks beautiful, it smells wonderful - and if you're thinking dry, dusty pot pourri, that's not what I mean at all. You haven't really smelled lavender until you've smelled it growing in full flower on the bush, bathed in sunshine. It also attracts a delightful number of bees, and we love bees, not only for their cute fuzziness and lovely buzzy humming, but also for the work they do in producing the warm liquid gold that is honey. I loooove honey.

Which brings us, funnily enough, to Cupcake Hero: October. Melissa of I Dream in Buttercream is this month's host, having won the Caffeine contest. And she has chosen Honey as this month's theme ingredient.

Well, what could I do? Who am I to argue with an army of bees? Lavender and honey it is!


Cupcakes (adapted from this recipe by Chockylit)

1 1/2 cups caster sugar
1 1/2 tsp dried lavender flowers
125g butter
1 egg yolk
1/4 cup honey
300g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 egg whites
1 fresh lavender flower head (optional - it gives the syrup a nice freshness, but isn't 100% necessary, so don't panic if you don't have it growing)

Modus Operandi
Process sugar with lavender flowers in a food processor until lavender has been powdered and dispersed amongst the sugar.
Cream butter with 1 1/4 cups lavender sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in vanilla and egg yolk. Add honey and beat well.
Sift flour, baking powder and salt together, and add this and the milk to the butter/sugar mixture in three parts, alternating with the milk and mixing after each addition.
In a clean dry mixing bowl, whisk egg whites to soft peaks.
Fold egg whites gently into cake batter until incorporated.
Scoop batter into cupcake papers, and bake at 175 degrees Celsius for 15-20 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean.

Meanwhile, place the remaining 1/4 cup of lavender sugar into a small saucepan with 1/4 cup of water, and bring to the boil, stirring. Add the fresh lavender flower, if desired, and remove from heat. Allow to cool until cakes are out of the oven but still warm, and then brush a little syrup over each cupcake. Note: this recipe makes MUCH more syrup than you will need. How much syrup you use will determine how prominent the lavender flavour is in your finished cupcakes, so if you're not accustomed to using lavender in cooking, go easy the first time (or even better, do one and eat it to test how lavender-y it is, before going ahead with the others!) Reserve the leftover syrup as some will go into the frosting, and the rest you can use for something else. Hmm... lavender sorbet? Ooooh, now there's a thought...

Allow cakes to cool completely before frosting.

Lavender & Honey Buttercream (all mine)
250g butter
250g icing sugar
2 Tbsp honey
2 Tbsp milk
Lavender syrup, to taste.

Modus Operandi
Cream butter and sugar until very pale. Add honey and continue to beat well. Add milk and a couple of spoonsful of lavender syrup, and beat until fluffy. Taste and add more syrup if desired, remembering that you want the lavender flavour to be subtle in the frosting, as you already have it in - and on - the cupcake.
Pipe a swirl of frosting onto each cupcake, and sprinkle with picked lavender petals if desired.

Et voila!

Now, it might seem I've been going on about lavender a lot, and you might well be thinking "yeah, but the theme ingredient is honey". But the truth is, these cupcakes would make Winnie the Pooh proud. They are a very honey-ey affair indeed: warm and sweet, with the lavender playing a lovely fresh floral counterpoint.

To me, they Taste Like Sunshine.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Pirates & Princesses (something for everyone...)

I know, two posts in two days - what can I say? I've been busy.

So this year I decided to do something a bit mad. I entered a cake into the Royal Show. Not a wedding cake, because I'm not completely insane. In the Amateur Novelty section, because I decided it would be More Fun. But it did mean it had to be carved out of fruit cake. Now this is something I was very stressed about, as I've made fruit cakes before, but never carved them. In the event, whilst certainly more trouble than carving mud or madeira cakes, it was doable.

And here is the finished product:

And again, from another angle:

The cake was covered first in black sugarpaste, then in brown (which I then "woodworked"). With the exceptions of the window frames and the seaweed (piped royal icing), all the bits and pieces (including the masts) were made from modelling paste. In the case of the masts, this did not turn out to be the best idea, but more on that later.

And check this out:
I was awarded a "Highly Commended" certificate! Woo hoo! Very chuffed about this for my first show entry! And yes, you may also notice that in this photo (post-Show), one of the masts has parted company with, well, the rest of itself. This mast had developed a terrible case of "brewer's droop", as my mother so charmingly put it, by the time I visited the Show, and by pick-up day it had snapped. Oh dear. Note to self: learn how to make pastillage. But still - Highly Commended!!

But wait - there's more! Just in case I didn't have enough to do, I entered in the Decorated Cookies section too, with my usual lemon-scented sugar cookie recipe, done in princessy shapes:
And I won!!How awesome is that? Very exciting.

So a big thankyou goes to Husband and the Muffin, who have had to put up with the house being taken over by sugar (again), and also to anyone else who has babysat/chauffered/sat through lengthy explanations of Why It Is Important To Have The Correct Size Board (and other equally fascinating topics).

And congratulations to everyone else who entered the Cookery competition this year - there are some amazingly talented people out there in Perth. I was in awe of some of those cakes.

Now, what shall I enter next year???

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Cake Pops!

Okay, so everyone who has ever been on any baking blog or website has heard of Bakerella and her cake pops. If they haven't, they should have. She - and they - are awesome.

So I was inspired to try out some of my own, and I decided to make mice. Now I must say, I fully expected this to be a debacle of massive proportions. But in the event, it was actually easier than I thought it would be. It did take some time, but weirdly enough, the hardest part was finding the lollipop sticks. I ended up having to order them online. Are you listening, Australian retailers???


Firstly, the balls themselves are just crumbled cake mixed with frosting...

...which is then rolled into balls...

... before having a stick inserted, some freezer time, and in this case a choc chip added to each one (to create the shape of the mouse's snout)...

Then each pop has some more freezer time, before being dipped quickly into white chocolate. I also added a pink cachou to each little nose...

... as well as carefully-cut-up white melts for the ears, and pink chocolate tails (which I had piped onto baking paper and refrigerated until hard), all by gluing on with more white chocolate.

Finally, I tried my hand at drawing faces on with an edible marker, but I have this to say on that topic: either the brand of marker Bakerella uses is significantly better than the brand I have, or I am just really rubbish at drawing with it. Seriously. I gave up after drawing two mouths, and quickly melted a bit of dark chocolate to make the eyes. In future I'll stick with my piping bag.

And that's it - enjoy! If you are interested in trying these out for yourself, I highly recommend you visit Bakerella's site for more detailed instructions (although I used a lot less frosting than she does - probably just a difference in cake density, as you can use any cake you like).

Also, I must admit I wasn't really expecting to enjoy the taste of these all that much - it looked to me as though they were going to be tremendously overly sweet. But they actually weren't - they were yummy!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Cupcake Hero - Hyped Up!

Yes folks, it's Cupcake Hero voting time again!

The roundup has been posted at The Insomniac Baker, and there are some fantastic-looking caffeinated cupcake creations!

The Crow's Nest Cupcakes I created both for this contest, and in honor of Talk Like A Pirate Day, are part of the roundup - and they really were yummy!

But whether you vote for me, or one of the other tasty cuppies on show, you have until Thursday September 30 to do so.

So grab yourself a coffee (or a can of Red Bull!) and go check them out now!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Party Cookies

Cupcake & Party Hat shaped cookies, for a family birthday party.
Also I tried out a new icing recipe, rather than my usual royal icing. Icing recipe found here. Not sure how I feel about this. The icing didn't dry any shinier than royal, in my opinion, but maybe that's because I had to substitute half honey half water for the "light corn syrup" (which we don't get here in Australia)? Also it does mean honey-flavoured icing is non-negotiable, and whilst it tasted fine, I don't think I'd want to do it every single time. Ideas for other substitutes, anyone?

I do think this is a nice icing, I think maybe I'm just used to the way royal icing behaves now, so I'm a little more comfortable with it. I will probably try this icing out again one day (it IS less mucking around than royal), especially if someone has any suggestions for light corn syrup substitutes...
Also I was quite impressed with the Muffin, who took one look at the party hat cookie shape, and said "Mummy I am going to make a fairy out of that." And she simply had to do a cupcake too:

Not bad for a three year old, I reckon! :o)

Sunday, September 19, 2010


Aye, it be Talk Like A Pirate Day!
And if ye have nary an idea what I'm talkin' about, go immediately to the Talk Like A Pirate Day website an' have a look around - it be funnier'n an octopus down yer boss' pantaloons!
I've already shown ye me recipe fer Crow's Nest Cupcakes (scroll down to the previous post if ye missed it). They went down a treat wi' the small band o' buccaneers we spent the afternoon with - make some an' try 'em yerselves!

Until me next post, may yer sails be full, yer swag likewise, an' yer hull free o' barnacles!

And remember to spread the word - and the word is "Aarrr!"

Friday, September 17, 2010

Crow's Nest Cupcakes (they give you wiiings...)

Last month, Alisa of The Insomniac Baker won Cupcake Hero, and thus became this month's host. Her theme ingredient? Caffeine. Not coffee. Caffeine.

How cool is that?

I immediately decided against coffee as my caffeinated ingredient, as I figured everyone would go there. So what to use? Okay, so here's a confession: I love Red Bull. I know, I know, it's bad for you, and actually I haven't had one for years. But when I was younger and significantly less dependent on sleep, Red Bull was my friend. And it is sooo yummy...

Also it now comes in these handy little "Red Bull Energy Shots" - all the caffeine of a standard can, in just 60mL of liquid!! Wowza. I don't know whether even I would drink that on a regular basis... But on the up side, it's perfect for baking with.

So I had my ingredient, and I also decided I wanted pirate-themed cupcakes, what with Talk Like A Pirate Day being this Sunday (spread the word, me hearties - and the word is Aarrr!).

So here's what I came up with: A surprisingly light and delicate cupcake, with a double helping of white rum (naturally) and scented with lime zest (to stop ye from gettin' scurvy), all topped off with Red Bull buttercream. And here they are...

Crow's Nest Cupcakes
(cupcake recipe adapted from Billy Reece's Vanilla Vanilla recipe. Buttercream recipe is my own.)
1 cup caster sugar
Zest of one lime
225g plain flour
1 Tblsp baking powder
120g butter, softened
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup white rum

1/4 cup sugar (extra - for syrup)
1/4 cup white rum (extra - for syrup)

Mix lime zest and sugar together and bash in a mortar and pestle until the sugar goes greenish from the zest (I'm sure you could also do this in a food processor or similar). Sift the sugar into the bowl of an electric mixer, discarding any larger bits of zest that are left in the sieve/sifter. Add flour and baking powder to the sugar and mix together. Add butter and mix until just combined.
In a separate bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, vanilla and rum. Add to dry ingredients, a third at a time, beating until combined after each addition.
Spoon mixture into cupcake cases (fill about 2/3 full), and bake at 170 degrees Celsius until they test clean (start checking after 10 minutes).
While they are baking, you can make the rum syrup: mix the extra sugar and white rum together in a small saucepan and stir over a medium heat to dissolve the sugar. Bring to the boil (this will cook off most of the alcohol), and then remove from the heat and let the syrup cool.
While cupcakes are still warm, brush them with the rum syrup and then leave them to cool. When cool, top with Red Bull buttercream.

Red Bull Buttercream
240g salt reduced butter (you can also use half salted, half unsalted)
300g icing sugar
2 tsp cream
60mL (1 can) Red Bull Energy Shot

Cream butter and icing sugar until very pale. Beat in the cream, then add the Red Bull and beat until fluffy. Pipe or spread onto cupcakes.

And there ye have it - cupcakes t' keep ye awake on the long night watch when ye're up in the crow's nest. Unless o' course, ye wants 'em a little more swashbucklin' - in which case simply add the topper o' yer choosin:-


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