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Banana and Blueberry Cupcakes

21 Mar

You already know how I feel about fruit muffins. Well after the choc-fest of the last few recipes, I decided to go earth-mother with some basic banana and blueberry cupcakes. Just reading the recipe made me feel virtuous. Bananas and blueberries – what could be more earth-friendly (read: tummy-friendly)? The two Bs were going to nurture body and mind. I was merely a cake away from enlightenment and an embroidered peasant skirt.

Ingredients

125g butter

1/2 cup milk

2 eggs

1 cup caster sugar

1/2 cup overripe banana (about 1 large banana)

1 1/2 cups self-raising flour

1/2 cup frozen blueberries

Method (makes 12):

1. Preheat oven to 180 oC. Grease 12-hole muffin pan.

2. Place butter and milk in small saucepan; stir over low heat until butter melts.

3. Beat eggs in small bowl with electric mixer until thick and creamy. Gradually add sugar, beating until dissolved between additions; stir in banana. Fold in sifted flour and cooled butter mixture, in two batches. Divide mixture among muffin pan holes.

4. Bake cakes for 10 minutes. Remove pan from oven; press frozen blueberries into tops of cakes. Return cakes to oven for a further 15 minutes. Allow cakes to cool on wire rack.

Mashing bananas with a zen-like demeanour.

Melting the butter and extending my mind.

As any fule kno here at Hudson Towers, the big eggs are for cooking with and not for eating. After accidentally replenishing the supply with some medium-sized eggs, I had to distinguish between the two. Writing on the egg was my passive-aggressive* way of telling Pete not to eat it. (*Not very earth-motherly I know. We have our limits.) Also, it reminded me of this:

Q: what’s big and small at the same time?

A: a big egg!

It’s a classic.

Perhaps real devotees would serenely hand-beat the egg whites. Meh.

You’ll be pleased to know the bananas are Fair Trade. They all are at Sainsbury’s. Meanwhile the flour is… who knows? All I know is that it isn’t Gold Flour (see Fig.1)

Fig.1

Does anyone else find his overall demeanour a little bit frightening? “We ought to charge more,” he says onimously. Make you wonder why they don’t. They are a business after all. Are they cutting the flour with talc or something? Whatever the reason, I don’t think I want it any more. Return from whence you came, stunted gremlin-man.

Add the bananas to the mixture.

Give it a gentle mix. Mmm, therapeutic.

Put the cakes into the oven for a brief spell…

… And hey presto, they’re nearly cooked.

The tops are still spongy, which makes them the perfect consistency for adding blueberries.

Blueberries, from where else but Sainsbury’s. They didn’t come cheap, but who can put a price on health? (Well, technically Sainsbury’s I suppose.)

I’m not sure whether these are overloaded or not. You can never have enough blueberries I say.

Occupational hazard

Violet, you’re turning violet!

Actually, this does look a bit like me. Back in my childhood fringe days.

Still, it’s all worth it.

I can assure you that those are blueberries, rather than plump, juicy olives.

The cakes are now fully cooked and the blueberries are soft and juicy. The smell from the oven is bananary (bananarish?).

A dusting of icing sugar is all that’s needed to complete to look.

VERDICT

Taste:

The cakes are very light and airy with a strong taste of banana. The blueberries provide a sharp sweetness to cut through the sponge.

Recipe pros:

Incredibly easy. The blueberry topping adds interest to a simple banana cupcake.

Recipe cons:

The dusting of icing sugar seems to shorten the life-span of the cakes. After storing them overnight (in an airtight tin, no less), they’ve gone a little soft and squishy. Still delicious, but not as attractive. Save the dusting of sugar for when you serve up the individual cakes.


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Marbled Chocolate Mud Cupcakes

10 Mar

I like to think of myself as quite a savvy individual. I mean, I know how to use chopsticks, I can hail a cab, I know which end of a chicken the eggs come out from. Yet apparently I wasn’t always so streetwise.

The scene: My first trip to the British Museum upon arriving in London as an undergraduate.

The objective: To see The Elgin Marbles.

The faux pas: I spent a great deal of time striding past some big, flattish statues hanging on the museum wall while I searched for the cabinet containing what I could only imagine to be a bag of marbles I assumed had once belonged to Elgin.

Did I question why Elgin’s bag of marbles was so impressive? Or indeed why it needed a a gallery all to itself? No, I did not. Thank goodness I went on to do an English degree that taught me about homonyms.

This is a cautionary tale: Today’s cupcakes are also homonymonous – what with them being marbled (the result of combining white and dark chocolate cake mixtures). To avoid further confusion,  the finished product may be referred to as The Hudson Marbles.

This recipe is taken from the Australian Women’s Weekly Complete Book of Cupcakes and Baking.

Ingredients:

For the dark mud cake

85g butter, chopped

75 g dark eating chocolate, chopped

2/3 cup caster sugar

1/2 cup milk

1/2 cup plain flour

1/4 cup self-raising flour

1 tbsp cocoa powder

1 egg

For the white mud cake

85g butter, chopped

75 g white eating chocolate, chopped

1/2 cup caster sugar

1/3 cup milk

2/3 cup plain flour

1/4 cup self-raising flour

1 egg

Method:

1. Preheat oven to 160 oC. Grease two six-hole large muffin pans.

2. Make dark mud cake by combining butter, chocolate, sugar and milk in medium saucepan over low heat until melted. Transfer to medium bowl to cool for 10 minutes. Whisk in sifted flours and cocoa, then egg.

3. Make white mud cake by combining butter, chocolate, sugar and milk in medium saucepan over low heat until melted. Transfer to medium bowl to cool for 10 minutes. Whisk in sifted flours, then egg.

4. Drop alternate spoonfuls of the mixture into pan holes. Pull skewer back and forth through cake mixture for a marbled effect. Bake about 30 minutes; allow to cool.

Lovely lovely white chocolate…

… Which then gets melted with butter, sugar and milk into this vaguely disgusting puddle.

Do the same with the dark chocolate.

I’d get that seen by a doctor actually.

Meanwhile, build Hamburger Hill from cocoa powder and flour.

When you’ve finished melting your chocolate-mixes, you should have two bowls, like so.

Now, I thought I would conduct a small experiment with these cakes *stifles maniacal cackle*. I wanted to know what difference could be made by not using cases like I usually do. The holes on the far right have been greased with vegetable oil.

Mmm, greasy.

For the chocolate cake, add the dry ingredients to the bowl of melted chocolate.

Add an egg to make it stiff and glossy.

Once you’ve done the same with the white chocolate, you should have two bowls like this.

Experimental case-filling. For some I’ve started filling with white choc, before topping up with dark. And vice versa.

To get the marbled effect, use a skewer (I used a chopstick) to drag the mixture around inside the case.

When I lived in China I used chopsticks every day for every meal – including the homesick tuna pasta I was able to cobble together in my apartment. Since I’ve been back in the UK, this is the only time I’ve had a use for them (well, one of them).

They remind me a little of these beauties:

Fresh from the oven, you can see some have worked better than others. The cakes on the left are caseless, and are probably the best. On the whole they all look pretty neat.

The white chocolate with the dark on top seems to have worked best – or at least resulted in the most impressive appearance.

This is one of the caseless cakes. Thanks to lashing of vegetable oil, it came out of the tin perfectly. Result!

The swirls on the top keep it looking interesting.

And it’s worked rather nicely inside too.

The cakes with no cases are slightly smaller than the rest. Perfect for snack time!

It’s almost a shame to hide the marbled effect under some frosting. But not enough of a shame to stop me doing it.

Besides, if the top is frosted, you can surprise people when they bite into it. Like the 21st century equivalent of hiding a sixpence in a plum pudding – but without the fear of your guest breaking a tooth – followed by some no-win-no-fee litigation.

I used a simple chocolate buttercream frosting recipe and applied it with a palette knife. I was given this palette knife as part of a job-lot from my lovely mum when I went to university. Now I’ve finally found a use for it!

A generous donation

VERDICT

Taste:

Scrumptious. It’s basically the sanctioned eating-of-two-cakes-at-once. Winning!

Recipe pros:

Because of the two colours, it produces a more interesting cake than usual. The flavour is quite rich and sweet – and doesn’t use too much flour.

Recipe cons:

Reading through the recipe beforehand, there seemed to be a lot of stages. However, once I got started, it was all very simple. You’ll need two clean saucepans and two clean (big-ish) bowls – so there’s more washing-up than usual.

End Note: While searching for pictures of marbles, I came across this beguiling movie poster:

I have no idea what it’s about, considering there’s no blurb no blurb in English on IMDB. Marbles, I would have to assume.

I don’t know if you can quite make it out,  but inside those two marbles are a swastika and a Star of David. Goodness knows what that means. The kids certainly don’t look too worried. It’s all gallic good-naturedness. Probably.

Better not let the Daily Mail get hold of this – they’ll only use it as an opportunity to try and ban school French-exchanges or something.

“HAVE THE FRENCH LOST THEIR MARBLES?” the headline will read. Pointing to the poster they’ll ask: “DO YOU WANT THESE GLASSY-EYED RACE-MONGERS LEADING YOUR CHILDREN ASTRAY?”

And people will say… “Listen, I just came to this blog to read about cake and enjoy your light-hearted attempts at humour, and now I find things have taken a very confusing and unsettling turn. Let’s have less of this next time around, thank you very much.”

So there we have it. No good can come of marbles – Elgin’s, French, or otherwise. Unless of course you’re cramming them into your mouth in cake form.

Buttercream Frosted Cupcakes

4 Mar

I say this with the absolute authority of a woman experienced beyond my years: Frosting is in.

I hadn’t really attempted it, thus leaving a frosting-shaped hole in my (already-limited) repetoire.

But now I have piping bags and nozzles, and a whole lotta ambition. I’m like Christina Aguilera in the much-maligned film Burlesque. Except I’m realising my cake-related dreams and piping my way to a better future. Below is a guide to basic frosting, plus a recipe for buttercream icing.

Four piping nozzles. When I got them to the checkout at Sainsbury’s, nobody could find a barcode – so I got them for free! Take that capitalism!

1984-skyline, anyone? Or some sort of Lady Gaga stage-show set?

Does what it says on the box. They were too uninspiring to photograph once unravelled.

I had a bit of a Google, and Helen Shroyer on YouTube does a good job of explaining the basics of piping, including how to prepare your piping bag. Below is the basic gist:

When using disposable bags, it couldn’t be easier: All you have to do is snip the end off the bag, and push the nozzle down towards the hole from inside.

Rest the bag in a tall glass or vase and fold the top to keep in in place. This will make it easier to fill with frosting.

Simple Buttercream Recipe:

Ingredients (covers 12 cupcakes):

150g butter, softened

250g icing sugar

1 tsp vanilla

2 tsp hot water

food colouring (optional)

Method:

Place butter and sugar in  a bowl and beat thoroughly with a fork/ electric mixer. Once well-combined, add vanilla extract and water. Beat until smooth and creamy.

I managed to drop icing sugar on the floor and on my foot. Incredibly, it managed to go through my sock. When I took it off it looked like I had some unusual type of foot fungus. (I don’t.)

After adding water, it very quickly turned into recognisable icing. (If it’s too thick, add a tiny bit more water; if it’s too thin, add more icing sugar.) I then added a few drops of yellow food colouring.

So that was nice.

Then fill the bag with icing. You don’t have to be neat about it, as you’ll eventually be squishing it all down to the end anyway.

The cakes are ready to be iced. The lines on the top are the result of me overzealously tipping them out onto the wire tray. At least it made them flatter.

Frosting Instructions

Doing  a bit more Googling, these were the most helpful videos on YouTube:

  • Courtesy of Women’s Weekly, this is a really gentle tutorial, harking back to more innocent times.
  • Ignore the prominence of this woman’s breasts in the video’s opening and you’ll find an excellent rose-frosting demo.
  • Xanthe Milton is my favourite. She’s like a bad-girl Nigella, and shows four great methods for icing cupakes.

I tried a couple of Xanthe Milton’s methods, then went off-piste and tried a few of my own. I only used one nozzle, so was a bit limited in that respect.

My first ever attempt at icing. Look at that jaunty little peak!

Who knows where this will lead?

Europhile!

It’s like eight little pats of butter atop a cake. Which makes it the BEST kind of cake.

A beautiful flower? Or an angry lion’s mane as seen from above?

I then added some embellishment with sugar decorations.

VERDICT:

Taste:

The buttercream is delicious, creamy and sweet. The texture was perfect for piping.

Recipe pros:

I’m really pleased with these. It wasn’t nearly as difficult as I’d thought, and it was fun being a bit more creative with the cakes. The buttercream recipe was flawless and yielded plenty of icing. It was helpful watching the icing videos online instead of just having written instructions. The sugar decorations worked like magic in pulling the cake designs together.

Recipe cons:

I can’t think of any. Oh wait, yes I can. The buttercream is so moreish I ate quite a lot of the leftovers once I’d finished the piping. Then I got a tummyache. So, yeah, that. (Admittedly this is less of a recipe-con and more of a personal failing.)

Choc Chip and Almond Cupcakes

21 Feb

After watching  a charming DVD called The Human Centipede, I needed something sweet and wholesome to rehabilitate my brain and re-inflate my shrivelled soul. And what could be more comforting than chocolate chip and almond cupcakes?

I had a very glamorous assistant to help me with this recipe. His name is Al. Because he probably wouldn’t want his face splashed across the interwebz, here’s an artist’s impression of us cooking together – based loosely on a still from the music video “You Can Call Me Al” by Paul Simon:

“You can call me Al,” Paul Simon seems to say, brandishing some Sainsbury’s chocolate. (So that’s why he’s soft in the middle!) Please note his hairnet. We take elf and safety extremely seriously here at Hudson Towers.

This recipe is taken from the Australian Women’s Weekly Complete Book of Cupcakes and Baking

Ingredients:

4 egg whites

125g butter, melted

2/3 cup ground almonds

3/4 cup icing sugar

1/4 cup plain flour

100g dark eating chocolate, chopped finely

1/4 cup double cream

100g dark eating chocolate, chopped,  extra

Method:

1. Preheat oven to 200 oC. Grease a 12-hole muffin pan.

2. Place egg whites in a bowl and beat with a fork. Stir in butter, ground almonds, sifted icing sugar and flour, and chopped chocolate.

3. Bake cakes about 15-20 minutes. Leave to cool.

4. Meanwhile, combine cream and extra chocolate over heat until combined. Stir until smooth. Stand until thick. Spoon mixture over cupcakes.

Separating the egg white and yolk is always fun. Above is the yolk, and below is the white:

This is not one of the more visually-arresting shots.

Lovely ground almonds. The parmesan cheese of the baking world.

Chocolate. Expertly chopped by Al. It was incredibly difficult not to scoff the lot at this stage.

The recipe couldn’t be simpler. Just give the ingredients a quick mix…

… And that’s it. The recipe uses a surprisingly small amount of flour. I imagine the cakes will be quite light and fluffy in the middle.

And lo! They are. While it looks a little like a rock cake, it has none of the heft. It’s like a prop from an action movie – You could throw it at Bruce Willis’s head and it would bounce right off rather than knocking him out.

Melting double cream and extra chocolate to form a rich topping. (Not pictured: cheeky fingers dabbling in the bowl.)

The creamy chocolate shines when it’s first added…

… Before hardening to a slightly crisper (and matte) top.

VERDICT

Taste:

Delicious. The cake is light and spongy while the chocolate chips give a sweet kick. The chocolate topping is lovely too.

Recipe pros:

Almost impossibly easy, and uses few ingredients.

Recipe cons:

None. I just wish I’d made more.

Now perhaps you’ve had Paul Simon stuck in your head since I first mentioned him at the beginning of this post. If so, lance that popular musical boil by watching this YouTube video:

Skip to 2:10 for the piccolo solo, followed by the nifty synchronised footwork. Imagine that with a spatula and raw eggs, and it’s almost exactly what was going down in my kitchen. Just call me Betty.

Banana Muffins with Maple Cream Frosting

1 Feb

I like making muffins using fruit. It means that instead of eating them as a 4pm snack or waiting until pudding, they can also be scoffed at breakfast, (as part of a balanced diet, of course). Unfortunately, I’ve never been one for willpower, so fruit muffins usually become my breakfast, lunch and dinner (and snacks, and puddings, and just-becauses). It’s a double-edged sword this fruit muffin lark.

This recipe is taken from the Australian Women’s Weekly Complete Book of Cupcakes and Baking.

Ingredients:

60 g butter

60g soft cream cheese

3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar

2 eggs

1/2 cup milk

2 tbsp maple syrup

1 1/2 cups self-raising flour

1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

2 medium bananas, halved lengthways, sliced thinly

For the frosting

30g butter

80g soft cheese

2 tbsp maple syrup

1 1/2 cups icing sugar

Adjustments:

I replaced maple syrup (expensive) with golden syrup (cheap) and used a little less.

I halved the icing recipe and still had enough to coat the cakes.

Method (makes 12):

1. Preheat oven to 180 oC. Line 12-hole muffin pan with cases.

2. Beat butter, cream cheese and sugar in medium bowl with electric mixer until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time. Stir in milk, syrup and sifted dry ingredients.; fold in bananas.

3. Drop 1/4 cup of mixture into each case; bake about 30 minutes. Stand cakes in pan for 5 minutes then turn onto wire rack to cool.

4. Make maple cream frosting by beating butter, cream cheese and syrup in a small bowl with electric mixer until light and fluffy; beat in sifted icing sugar, in two batches, until combined.

Milibanana

Now first I’m going to need some bananas. Can you help me out David Miliband?

“Sure Hannah – Here you go. You can have mine.”

But David Miliband! This banana is all wrinkled and almost past its best.

“Oh god. Yeah, sorry about that. It’s been a tough few months.”

Not to worry David Miliband, I know you have a kind heart. I wish you’d won the leadership election instead of Ed.

That news seems to please you David Miliband. I’ll just leave you to it. Thanks again.

“No problem. As you can see, I’ve got plenty of things – not least this ice cream – to be getting on with now.” **

Like the inside of a Miliband brother, the banana is soft and packed full of potassium.

We’ll also be needing some cream cheese, but it looks like I’ll have to fetch that myself.

Like _______(*Insert name of politician), this cream cheese is slimy.

Like _________ (*Insert name of political party), these eggs are past their best. (Safety Notice: Not really, the eggs are well within the use-by date.)

I’m also using a whack-load of solden syrup. Now I gave a fairly comprehensive commentary of this golden syrup a couple of posts back, so I’ll say no more about it for now.

Giving it a good old going-over.

Gloopy.

Now time for the bananas.

In they go.

It’s satisfyingly sticky putting the mixture into the cases. Must be all that syrup. #schlurp

Bow down and worship the Sun God banana muffin.

“This shit it bananas,” says Neo.

VERDICT:

Taste:

Delicioso. The banana is sticky yet firm, and the icing on top is really, well, the icing on the cake – so to speak. Although there’s no banana in the icing, it tastes like there is. Result!

Recipe pros:

It’s easy to do, especially considering I substituted golden for maple syrup.

Recipe cons:

The icing doesn’t look as light and bouncy as it does in the pictures. Perhaps I didn’t give it a good enough beating. Should have asked John Prescott.

** For some genuinely insightful political commentary, why not romp across to Pete’s politics blog? You won’t find cake, but you will find a gullet-full of nuanced political analysis. Feed your mind.

Apple and Ginger Cakes with Lemon Icing

24 Jan

As soon as I got my baking book, I knew I would have to make these.  However, the long list of ingredients put me off for a while. This weekend, the siren song of Tate and Lyle’s Golden Syrup was too strong, and I stickily succumbed.

This recipe is taken from the Australian Women’s Weekly Complete Book of Cupcakes and Baking.

Ingredients:

250g butter, softened

1 1/2 cups firmly packed dark sugar

3 eggs

1/4 cup golden syrup

2 cups plain flour

1 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

2 tbsp ground ginger

1 tbsp ground cinnamon

1 cup grated apple (1 medium apple)

2/3 cup hot water

For the icing

2 cups icing sugar

2 tsp butter, softened

1/3 cup lemon juice

Method (makes 12):

1. Preheat oven to 180 oC. Grease two large 6-hole muffin pans.

2. Beat butter and sugar in small bowl with electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beat until well combined between additions. Stir in syrup.

3. Transfer mixture to medium bowl. Stir in sifted dry ingredients, then apple and water.

4. Divide mixture among pans.

5. Bake about 25 minutes. Stand cakes in pan 5 minutes, then turn out onto wire rack to cool.

6. Meanwhile, make icing by sifting icing sugar into medium heatproof bowl; stir in butter and juice to form a paste. Place bowl over small saucepan of simmering water; stir until icing is a pouring consistency.

Adjustments:

I declared the recipe halved, and lo, it was.

Wadda ladda baddah.

I finally got my hands on some genuine-goodtime-family-fun brown sugar (so long demerara!). I was surprised at how damp it seemed – like wet sand.

Creaming the butter and sugar. It smells so. good.

But looks like a sinus infection.

Srp. Whenever I see a lion, I think of this one:

He’s the Maiwand Lion, and is actually a war memorial in Reading. I’ve never been to Reading, and the only reason I know about the lion is because it’s an example of doing it wrong.

Look at the lion’s gait. Now imagine a lion actually walking like that. He’d look ridiculous. The sculptor, George Blackwell Simonds, was rumoured to have committed suicide when some wag was kind enough to point it out.

EDIT: The infinite wisdom of Wikipedia tells me I’m wrong!

Rumours persist that Simonds committed suicide on learning that the lion’s gait was incorrectly that of a domestic cat. In fact, he made careful observations on lions and the stance was anatomically correct despite various African ex-pats disagreeing. He also lived for another 43 years, enjoying continuing success as a sculptor going on to create a statue of Queen Victoria (1887) and a statue of George Palmer (1891).

So there we go. I should probably stop telling that story.

It’s a little bit like a tin of wood varnish.

In fact, sorry to go on about this Golden Syrup, but it’s all rather interesting. Those eagle-eyed among you will notice that the logo on the tin looks a lot like a dead lion, surrounded by flies. Delicious. It is a dead lion, but it’s actually surrounded by a swarm of bees. And it’s from The Bible! (via Wikipedia):

In the Book of Judges, Chapter 14, Samson was travelling to the land of the Philistines in search of a wife. During the journey he killed a lion, and on his return past the same spot he noticed that a swarm of bees had formed a comb of honey in the carcass. Samson later turned this into a riddle at a wedding: “Out of the eater came forth meat and out of the strong came forth sweetness.” The last seven words still appear on tins of Golden Syrup. Abraham Lyle was a deeply religious man and may have intended to refer to the strength of the company or to the strength of the tin.

Brilliant.

If this isn’t what Conrad meant by The Heart of Darkness, then I radically misunderstood the book.

Sieving the dry ingredients (including yummy ginger) into the wet mixture.

Grating an apple is not like grating a carrot. For one, it’s a lot jucier. For two, it goes everywhere – including your eyes. Perhaps that’s where the expression “apple of my eye” comes from?

One of your five-a-day. Probably.

I kept filling cases 2/3 full until I ran out of mixture. I had enough for 9 in total.

I was a bit slapdash putting the mixture into the cases – hence the splashes (slap+dash).

It smells incredible when it comes out of the oven.

Something went a bit wrong with the glace icing. I don’t think I used enough icing sugar – a whole cup seemed excessive. Also, I didn’t heat it very much, so it’s very runny. Due to the domed shape of the cake, it runs off a little. Still tastes good though.

Paper case removed – it looks a whole lot better.

VERDICT:

Taste:

Spicy and sweet. The tangy lemon icing is a nice contrast to the richer ginger flavour. The cake is spongy and light, but has a nice deep scent, and the apple adds texture.

Recipe cons:

It involves a lot of ingredients. Though that’s not totally a bad thing – I now have the equipment to make it again.

Recipe pros:

The flavours all work very well together. Plus, Golden Syrup. Huzzah!

Lady Grey Cupcakes with Knights in White Icing

12 Jan

I love a good cup of tea. Possibly more than is healthy. I get through about ten cups a day, from the spectrum of black through to white, from loose-leaf to bags. When it comes to tea I’m an equal opportunity drinker. A Saturday treat is buying a new variety from the supermarket. When I moved back to the UK from China, I left personal items behind so that I could pack my hand luggage with tea. Phew, it feels good to get that off my chest. I like tea.

This recipe was the result of a lack of other ingredients. The only recipe I was equipped for was basic cupcakes. I then adapted it to include tea. Seemples.

This recipe is adapted from the Australian Women’s Weekly Complete Book of Cupcakes and Baking.

Ingredients:

125g butter, softened

½ tsp vanilla extract

¾ cup caster sugar

3 eggs

2 cups self-raising flour

1/4 cup milk

6 Lady Grey teabags

Glace icing:

2 cups icing sugar

20g butter, melted

2 tbsp hot water

Method (makes 24):

1. Preheat oven to 180 oC. Line two 12-hole muffin pans with cases.

2. Warm the milk and add teabags. Allow to steep for 10 minutes.

3. Combine ingredients in medium bowl; beat with electric mixer on low speed until ingredients are just combined. Increase speed to medium; beat about 3 minutes or until mixture is smooth.

4. Drop rounded tablespoons of the mixture into each case; bake about 20 minutes. Stand cakes about 5 minutes, then cool on wire racks.

5. Top cakes with glace icing.

To make icing:

1. Place sifted icing sugar in small bowl; stir in butter and enough of the hot water to make a paste; spread atop cakes.

Adjustments:

I’ve halved the recipe. As much as I might want them, I don’t need 24 cupcakes.

Steeping the teabags in milk. This is where it all went a bit off piste. Adapting a recipe is nerve-wracking. It could be great – resulting in glory and deliciousness, or it could be grit-biscuits all over again.

A close up of the tea-infusion. Looks enticing, no? In fact, it looks like the many cups of almost-finished tea that have ended up dotted around my flat. This particular specimen looks like one that’s been sitting there a few days – although the teabag would be crispier by now.

I am the Damien Hirst of butter.

A quarter tsp of vanilla essence. The back of the bottle says that it includes ethanol. Isn’t that like pure alcohol?

According to fount of knowledge that is Wikipedia:

Ethanol, also called ethyl alcoholpure alcoholgrain alcohol, or drinking alcohol, is a volatileflammable, colorless liquid. It is a powerful psychoactive drug and one of the oldest recreational drugs. It is best known as the type of alcohol found in alcoholic beverages and thermometers. In common usage, it is often referred to simply as alcohol or spirits.

And we’re putting this in cakes? Wowsa.

In it all goes. No sieving this time. Boo! It looks a lot like primary school cooking classes.

I always feel like it’s cheating to use the electric mixer. It makes it too easy. Where’s the sweat? The toil? And yet, my pathetic upper body strength rules out using a wooden spoon. I’ve also noticed a strong correlation between (a.) the using of the electric mixer and (b.) the getting of cake mixture in hair. Science.

From this…

To this. It’s pretty much exactly like Blue Peter here.

The original recipe was for 24 cakes. I halved the recipe, but then didn’t seem to have enough to make 12. So I made six big ones instead.

The error of my ways has become clear. There was too much mixture which (I think) is what has made them over-rise and crack on the top.

Poor little guy.

Making the glace icing. I can’t believe it requires a whole cup of icing sugar. Aren’t I sweet enough?

This icing lark couldn’t be any easier. I was pretty ambivalent with the spatula and it still formed icing in no time.

This is the baking equivalent of papering over the cracks – but better, because I can also eat the evidence.

This might be the ethanol talking, but I think the cake has almost an almost Von Trapp Family feel to it – all full-fat milk and girls in gingham.

Partners in crime.

VERDICT:

Taste:

Very good. While the cakes don’t smell of anything, the tea notes are subtle but definitely there in the taste. It adds a slight citrussy-spiciness. I’m glad I went with the icing – it  jazzes up the whole cake, and stops it becoming too bland.

Recipe cons:

I still can’t get my head around measurements. I thought by halving everything in the recipe, I’d end up with half the number of muffins. But perhaps I just overfilled the cases, and there should have been enough for 12.

Recipe pros:

It couldn’t be any quicker or simpler to make. It mostly involves ingredients you probably already have, and you could substitute any type of black tea for flavour.