Tag Archives: icing sugar

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)


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?


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.



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.)


Chocolate Crackle Cookies

28 Feb

Martha Stewart eh? America’s original domestic goddess. Like a sunnier, less boozy version of our very own Delia Smith. Oh she’s had her struggles alright – that stint in prison after lying about a stock sale for example – but she’s since bounced back better than ever, with new TV shows, books, a cameo appearance on Ugly Betty, and (if Wikipedia is to be believed) a range of prefab houses bearing her name.

But the best thing about Martha Stewart? The broad’s got banging hair. Now this will definitely out me as terminally uncool, but I really covert M-Stew’s ‘do. So shiny, so flippy. Love. It.

Maybe she's born with it?

The second best thing about The Marthster? These chocolate crackle cookies [click the link for the recipe]. They look so cute and contain lottsa chocolate. This is known as a Win Win situation.

First things first: Sift the flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt.

Sweaty Room temperature butter. Good grief, did I really use this much?

Of course I did! Can’t get enough of this wonderful stuff!

Butter and sugar ready to be beaten. But woe, the butter seems to be too hard.

The electric mixer is less than useless, so I resort to ye olde fashioned method (aka using a fork). I am surprisingly proficient.

Add melted chocolate. (Here’s the chocolate I melted earlier.)

Blend until delicious. Try to refrain from licking the beaters.

The mixture should be smooth and velvety. The chocolate equivalent of this rabbit:

N.B. This rabbit is velveteen, which is basically a cheap version of velvet. Like pleather, or suedette. Therefore you should actually aim for your chocolate mixture to be an upmarket version of this rabbit.

Separate the mixture into four parts and wrap each one in clingfilm.

“That’s not clingfilm!” rants Pete.

Apparently it’s a generic clingfilm substitute that doesn’t cling properly. However, it’s fine for this purpose.

Yes, I’m well aware of what it looks like. But it smells delish.

Chocolate parcels. Ready for the fridge. Chill for two hours.

And after two hours, it has chilled to a hard mass. Remove “clingfilm”.

Cut the mass into smaller bite-sized pieces and roll them into balls. Like so. Looks good enough to eat already. But here comes the fun part.

Roll it in granulated sugar.

Then roll it in icing sugar.

Stickios digitos.

So remember: That’s granulated sugar…

…Then icing sugar.

You may want to prepare a saucepan of water finger bowl to keep things civilised.

Grease (-proof paper) is the word.

Lay out the balls with plenty of space between – they need room to spread.

Think of hay bales in the summertime

(c) freefoto.com

After a short time in the oven, the balls will flatten out, hopefully leaving you with something like this…

In the interests of full-disclosure, I have to admit that not all of them quite worked out:

I have no idea why. Perhaps they were in a hotter part of the oven, or had too much/not enough sugar on them. They look gross, but still taste great!



Crispy on the outside, chewy in the middle – like a brownie. It’s impossible to eat just one.

Recipe cons:

It’s a bit annoying having to wait for them to chill for two hours. It also gets very messy.

Recipe pros:

It gets very messy. Trust Martha – filthy little minx. And on that note, let’s have Big-M play us out:

Chocolate Zucchini Love Cake

27 Feb

Reason to hate the recession #232: The rise of the SAHG (or Stay At Home Girlfriend). The author of the linked article talks about how, since losing her job, she has thrown herself into becoming a better girlfriend to her partner, and provides tips for emulating her new lifestyle. These include Don’t Sleep In, Keep the House Clean, and Keep Yourself Up.

Aaand back in the real world, I have mostly been wearing… Pajama bottoms!

No, I’m just kidding! (Because they shrunk in the wash.) #domesticityfail.

But it looks like I can’t escape the curse of the SAHG. For Valentine’s Day I made a cake, like the sad-sack little stay-at-home woman I am. And worst of all? It’s a LOVE cake. Shaped like a heart. I feel like Sonja from I’m Alan Partridge with her Scatter Love Cushions.

This recipe is adapted from Noble Pig.

Demonstrating my commitment to the love cake, I bought a heart-shaped silicone cake mould. It’s super fun to play with and apparently doesn’t need greasing.

Here are the zucchinis (or “courgettes” to les rosbifs like you and me).

(Sung to the tune of Sailor’s Hornpipe)

“Pop a courgette in your mouth, just before you make the dough/

What they’re made of is a mystery, where they come from no one knows./

You can pick ’em, you can lick ’em, you can chew ’em, you can stick ’em/

If you promise not to sue us, you can shove one up your nose.”

(A prize if you know where those lyrics originally came from.)

Artisan courgette.

Like the circles that you find in the windows of your mind.

Whisk together the dry ingredients.

Two scoops of butter. Like two hearts beating as one.

Her eyes were like [blank] holes in the snow. (Actually, it’s vanilla extract.)

Nothing says I love you more than a bald orange.

Mixing the wet ingredients with the dry.

Add chopped walnuts, orange peel and courgette.

This is a really strange combination, but I like it.

Put half of the mixture into the mould. Remember – no greasing required!

Now time to enjoy some half-time oranges. It’s a cake of two halves boys.

Alas, disaster strikes! The non-stick silicone mould hasn’t lived up to the hype. Most of the cake comes out, but some is still left in the case…

… Looking a little bit like a freshly dug turf.

Still, what’s that expression about making lemonade when life hands you lemons? The cake scrapings provided ample nourishment as I continued the arduous cake-making process.

For the other half of the cake, I greased the mould with a tiny amount of vegetable oil.

As you can see, this worked much much better.

What a difference it makes. They’re like the brothers from The Man in the Iron Mask – if one of them was hideously disfigured. (I can’t quite remember if that’s what happens in the movie).

Mixing up a batch of cream cheese frosting.

With a LOT of this bad boy.

This is the bottom layer cake, with a layer of frosting.

And here is the finished article: two layers of cake sandwiched with frosting and topped with even more frosting! I’ll tell you something – it wasn’t easy to spread, especially because I was working with that crumbly bit of cake. I should have watched this (incredibly comprehensive) frosting tutorial first.

It’s far from perfect. But it’s choc-full of love (and courgette. And chocolate).

And cream. So much cream.



Interesting in a good way. It has a very rich chocolately flavour, but with a slight earthiness. It’s quite a dense cake, so the cream cheese frosting provides a nice sharp counterpoint. Between two of us we could only manage a tiny proportion of the whole cake in one sitting.

Recipe pros:

It’s certainly different. Pete looked at me like I’d gone mad when I told him there were green vegetables in it. So that’s a plus.

Recipe cons:

It look way longer to cook than stated in the original recipe. Perhaps that’s due to the silicone mould. On the whole, it was quite a long process, but then this was a labour of love.

POST SCRIPT: Tragedy struck this cake on 15 February. Somebody (pointing no fingers, Peter) forgot to store it in a tin overnight, and by morning the cream cheese frosting had started to develop sweaty grease-beads. And so it was binned.

Truly a Romeo and Juliet tale for our times.