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Guinness Chocolate Muffins

2 Apr

You probably don’t know this about me, but I’m half Irish. More specifically, half-Northern-Irish. (Ai-rish, as opposed to Oi-rish). Which I suppose just makes me British. Pete says it doesn’t really count, as I’ve never been to Ireland and seem only to mention my affiliation around March. But I think it’s still worth noting. “It’s my heritage,” I told Pete haughtily. Perhaps I should have told him he was oppressing me.

I remember a story about Bill Clinton, who was interviewed during his presidency on St Patrick’s Day. Asked how he was enjoying the celebrations, he replied: “I feel more Irish everyday!” The story mentioned how he punched the air as he said it. That’s the kind of confidence I should be trying to emulate.

Yeah, I'm starting to see it now Bill

Anyway, St Patrick’s Day was last week ages ago, so in a show of solidarity with my brethren I made some green, boozy cupcakes.

I adapted this recipe from The Goddess Kitchen.

Butter, cocoa, sugar, and Guinness. In the interests of full-disclosure I have to tell you how badly this smelled. Imagine a residential pub at closing time, in the heat of summer, with all the windows shut. It was boozy.

The mixture was incredibly glossy. Like the barnet of a bonny Irish lass.

Sour cream, eggs. This is the meat-and-potatoes part of the recipe.

After a quick whisk with the flour.

I forgot to take pictures of the cakes going into the oven or coming out. So, as if by magic, here they are – already iced. Let’s pretend I had some help from this little guy:

It had to be green. Though the colour-scheme is a bit more Incredible Hulk than Emerald Isle.

After lashings of chocolate decorations, they look a bit merrier.



You can definitely taste the Guinness – but in a nice way. It deepens the taste of the chocolate and makes it richer. The icing is a little bit sickly – though perhaps that’s the green colouring throwing-off my sense of taste.

Recipe Pros:

Easy enough to make, and the addition of Guinness makes them a bit different to regular chocolate cakes.

Recipe Cons:

If you can’t/won’t drink alcohol, these aren’t for you.


Carrot and Orange Muffins

13 Feb

I like to bake. I also like to write. What I like even more is to tell jokes. Sometimes I combine all three. Some days I just stand in the kitchen, baking and telling jokes to myself and laughing and then writing about it. Usually flour goes everywhere and then I spend time not laughing and cleaning-up. My kitchen is sort of like a mental asylum crossed with the Women’s Institute.

When I decided to make carrot and orange muffins, I knew I was in for some serious cleaning-up afterwards.

Q: How do you tell the difference between a walrus and an orange?

A: Put your arms around it and squeeze it. If you don’t get orange juice, it’s a walrus.

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


2/3 cup vegetable oil

3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar

2 eggs

1 tsp finely grated orange rind

1 1/2 cups firmly packed coarsely grated carrot (about 2 carrots)

1 3/4 self-raising flour

1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1 tsp mixed spice

For the icing:

2 cups icing sugar

20g butter, melted

2 tbsp orange juice


I didn’t have any mixed spice, so I didn’t use any.
Method (makes 12):

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

2. Beat oil, sugar, eggs and rind with electric mixer until thick and creamy. Stir in carrot, then sifted dry ingredients.

3. Divide mixture in cases; bake about 30 mins. Stand cakes on wire stand to cool.

4. Make glace icing by sifting icing sugar into small heatproof bowl; stir in butter and enough juice to make a firm paste. Spread onto cakes.

Orange you going to ask what it is?

Attempting to zest the orange and failing.

Instead I grate it on the cheese grater and chop it up finely using a knife. Is this what’s known as the spirit of the Blitz?

Brown sugar.

Is anyone else reminded of Alcatraz?

Quite honestly I feel less worried about the eggs being happy than I do about the chickens. Happy chickens = good. Happy eggs = uneaten, presumably.

The modest star players.

Orange, carrot, it doesn’t matter. On the day of judgement, you will all meet your grater.

Bad news. He’s going to be a vegetable for the rest of his life.

Sifting the dry ingredients into the wet.

Nutritious and delicious.

I wasn’t lying about the flour.

Month-old coleslaw anyone?

Fresh from the oven.

Look at that texture.

This is perhaps the best icing I’ve ever done. Totally accidental.

Pretty snazzy huh? Note the whimsical single blue case.



Good. I have to admit that the muffins are lacking in spice (which is my fault for leaving out the mixed spice). They are nice and robust, and not too sweet, but there’s not much to them. While you can’t taste the orange, the carrot adds a pleasant subtle flavour. The icing helps to pick it up overall.

Recipe pros:

Easy. Healthy(?) It contains two (TWO!) of your five-a-day.

Recipe cons:

None. If only I hadn’t left out the mixed spice, it could have been perfect.

But what to do with the leftover orange?

Cheap, cheerful Halloween pumpkin substitute?

Don’t have nightmares.

We got him in the end.

P.S. Want.

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.


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


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.


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.


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.



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.

Cinnamon Doughnut Muffins

18 Jan

So, doughnuts. Or in the words of Willy Wonka’s Veruca Salt:

Cream buns and doughnuts and fruitcake with no nuts – so good you could go nuts.


Thus, imagine my joy when I found this doughnut recipe online. Doughnuts – made in a muffin pan! I was all over it it like white on rice (like krispy on kreme?)

This recipe is taken from Noble Pig.


1 3/4 cups flour

1 1/2 tsps baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

3/4 cup sugar

1/3 cup vegetable oil

1 egg, lightly beaten

3/4 cup milk


For the topping:

1/4 cup butter, melted

1/3 cup sugar

1 tsp ground cinnamon


1. In a large bowl, sift flour, baking powder, salt, nutmeg and cinnamon; whisk to combine.

2. In another bowl, combine sugar, oil, egg, and milk.

3. Stir wet ingredients into dry ingredients just until moistened.

4. Fill greased or paper-lined muffin cups half-full; place one teaspoon jam on top.  Cover jam with enough batter to fill muffin cups three-fourths full.  Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

5. Place melted butter in a small bowl; combine sugar and cinnamon in another bowl.  Immediately after removing muffins from the oven, dip tops in butter, then in cinnamon-sugar.


I didn’t have any nutmeg, so I didn’t use any.

Greasing the muffin tray. There has to be a better way of doing this. Perhaps I should have use my paintbrush pastry-brush. At least my fingers are nice and soft. (And yes, I did wash my hands.)


Kitchen whimsy – it’s a salt shaker. Every time I use it, he reminds me of this little guy…

Image (c)

Food for thought.

Ground cinnamon.

This recipe is so easy, there isn’t much to photograph.

Ploughing the land (aka, whisking the flour)

Vegetable oil doesn’t get much of an outing these days. Trust the Americans to bung a recipe full of it.

So. Oily.

Mixing the wet and dry ingredients together. (My favourite bit.)

It has the consistency of porridge and the smell of wet linden trees.

This is the first time I’ve used the muffin pan without cases. I hope it’s okay…

(SPOILER: This decision is to prove disastrous.)

Ah, the Verloon Hoop.

Sainsbury’s Basics jam. No shame. No shame, I tell you.

Remind you of anything?

Oh yeah. Now who says this blog lacks class?

“I never worry about diets. The only carrots that interest me are the number you get in a diamond.”

– Mae West

Ooh snap Mae, SNAP.

Anyway, here is our tray of severed lips. Now you see them…

… And now you don’t. Because they’ve been covered over with another layer of batter. Those holes look fit to burst.

Gloop gloops, into the oven they go.

My! how they’ve risen.

Are they done? The muffin gives nothing away, but the toothpick… the toothpick never lies. It’s time to pop these bad boys out. Just one small quibble…

…They seem to be a little stuck together. Not to worry, I’m sure they’ll be fine once we get them out of the pan.

It appears someone didn’t grease the pan very well. They won’t come out. Here’s one I maimed earlier.

The next step is supposed to be dipping the still-warm cakes into hot butter and sugar. I’ve tried to cut corners again by using demerara sugar instead of something finer. When will I learn? The crystals are just too massive!

This is one of the least-savaged muffins. Shame about the sugar – you could propose to someone* with one of those rocks.

It’s pretty neat how the jam-centre turned out. I ate one straight from the oven and the jam was still hot.



They taste good. Obviously they’re not quite the same as deep-fried doughnuts, but they are less greasy, and have a more wholesome bite. The flavour is a more like a churro, which is no bad thing in my book. The jam is good too.

Recipe pros:

It’s healthier and more filling than a regular doughnut, and the recipe was simple to put together.

Recipe cons:

It’s a pity they stuck to the pan. I think I overfilled it, but then again,  I was only following the recipe. Next time, I’d also use a different sugar for the top.

* But not to me, and certainly not to Mae West.

Blackberry Muffins

14 Jan

In the interests of full disclosure, this recipe was originally supposed to be Raspberry and Apple Cupcakes (oh you would have found out eventually). But I didn’t have any apples. And, then when I got the bag of mixed berries out of the freezer I realised I didn’t have any raspberries either. *Insert comedy wah-wah* Not to worry! We’ll pick-up where we left-off last time with some more frankencooking.

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


125g butter, softened

1 tsp vanilla extract

3/4 cup caster sugar

2 eggs

1 1/2 cups self-raising flour

1/2 cup milk

150 fresh or frozen raspberries

1 large apple, peeled and chopped finely

150g frozen blackberries

2 tsps icing sugar

Method (makes 12):

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

2. Beat butter, extract, and sugar in a bowl with electric mixer until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time. Stir in sifted  flour and milk, in two batches. Stir in fruit.

3. Divide mixture between cases. Bake about 30 minutes. Stand cakes for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire rack to cool. Dust with sifted icing sugar.


As I mentioned, I’ve replaced the apple and raspberries with frozen blackberries.

I’m also halving the recipe to make a smaller six-muffin batch. A “limited edition collection”, if you will.

The ceremonial disrobing of the butter. (If we can’t have fun with the butter part of this recipe, when can we have fun, eh?)

Our old friend ethanol (aka “vanilla extract”).

An unsuccessful first attempt at blending the butter and the sugar with the electric mixer.

And finally…

= Mashed potato?! Wha-?

After mixing in the egg. Good old spatula always gets the job done.

Sainsbury’s Basics berry mix. While it was a little disappointing in this recipe, I’m feeling more optimistic this time. I’ve got Basics Pride. It’s just so cheap!

How can you find fault with these?

Picking out the blackberries to have my wicked way with them.

In they go, before they start to thaw and bleed colour into the muffin mix.

Oops, too late! Must have been all that fondling.

It looks like tutti-frutti ice cream.

The blackberries are oozing when I take the cakes out of the oven – that’s what we like to see!

After a blitzkrieg of powdered sugar. They look pretty similar to the recipe picture.



Delicious. The berries have retained most of their shape, so have a satisfyingly gooey bite to them. Plus, the syrupy fruit-juices keep the cake moist.

Recipe cons:

The con of this recipe is that it’s for raspberry and apple muffins, when really it should be for blackberry muffins – because these are much better (probably).

Also, why do my cakes keep rising to domed peaks when the ones in the picture are flat on top? I measure and sift according exactly to the recipe, so what’s that about?

Recipe pros:

It couldn’t be simpler and the fruit is a nice way to add sweetness. You could probably eat these for breakfast and nobody could even say anything or give you a disapproving look.


Chocolate Brownie Muffins

4 Jan

Mmm, chocolate. Actually, I originally glossed over this page when I first flicked through the recipe book. It didn’t look particularly “wow”. But then I got a craving for a good solid gobful of chocolate, and this seemed to fit the bill.

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


2 cups* self-raising flour

1/3 cup cocoa powder

1/3 cup caster sugar

60g butter, melted

1/2 cup chocolate chips

1/2 cup pistachios, chopped coarsely

1/2 chocolate hazelnut spread

1 egg, lightly beaten

3/4 cup milk

1/2 cup soured cream

*Measuring Cups

My recipe book is Australian, so they use cup measurements, as do American recipes. Happily, I found these American-style measuring cups in Sainsbury’s for about £4. Sorry Delia – cups are definitely the way forward. For me it’s so much quicker and cleaner than measuring everything out onto a scale.

Method (makes 12):

1. Preheat oven to 200 oC. Fill 12-hole muffin pan with cases, or grease the pan.

2. Sift dry ingredients into a large bowl; stir in remaining ingredients.

3. Divide mixture among holes of prepared pan.

4. Bake for about 20 minutes. Dust with sifted extra cocoa if desired.


I didn’t use pistachios because they were too expensive.

I can’t be bothered to grease the tin, so I’m using cases instead. I like how they look like little upside-down debutantes in tutus. No? Just me then.

Sifting it all together. Is there anything more satisfying?

Mixing in the other ingredients. My silicone spatula-thingy means none of the mixture sticks to the side of the bowl.

See how scraping the bowl had made little cartoon emphasis lines around the chocolate mix? It’s like it’s saying “ta-da!” Or even “ahhhh!” (*phonetic for the angelic song of a holy choir – like that bit at the beginning of The Simpsons).

The mixture is gooey and looks like chocolate mousse.

In you go my pretties.

Anyone know how to bake without making a horrible mess? (Pete would say this is my favourite bit of the process.)

Fresh (literally ten seconds) out of the oven. I did a happy little jig when I saw how they’d risen.

Yes, they looked cracked on top, but so do the ones in the book. Is that a muffin’s defining characteristic?




After 20 minutes, the kitchen smelled like Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. When I get the muffins out of the oven, it’s all I can do not to stick my face in them immediately. And when I do? Lovely – especially with a nice cup of tea.

Recipe cons:

Um, none? Really simple and quick to make. Nothing fiddly. I would say that it is most definitely a muffin and not a brownie – they are light and spongey, rather than having the heaviness/chewiness I’d associate with a brownie. They are, however, brown – so I’ll give it a pass.

Recipe pros:

These are possibly the best things I’ve ever made.

The cakes are moist and bouncy and very chocolatey. The chocolate chips have retained most of their shape and ooze chocolate when you bite into the muffin.