Category Archives: Cupcakes

Chocolate Cake with Salted Caramel and Chocolate Ganache filling

I love having a family with good taste. It means I get to spoil them with experiments and I get to enjoy the benefits, both of actually putting together something delicious, and of enjoying it (I am still trying to figure out which one I enjoy more… thankfully it’s not important to figure out, otherwise I would be in a major quandary and dilemma and I would probably end up not doing either of them. I’m weird like that).

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I have a problem with reading, and I have lost my excuse since finishing University. While at school and while studying at University, I got a bit lazy to read. I absolutely love reading though, I always have, every since my Great Gran taught me how to read the children’s bible when I was 5! I got a Dictionary for my 6th birthday. Which I decided I would try and read when I was 11. Thankfully I didn’t get very far, that would have been a waste of time!

But that is my problem with reading: I feel that it is such a luxury past-time, that if I have something more “important” to be doing (such as assignments, studying, thesis, etc.), then how could I allow myself to indulge in reading? As a result I didn’t do my reading at Uni. Which isn’t to say that I got much of the other important stuff done in that time instead though, I would actually end up not doing either activity. So it really was a terrible excuse.

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Now, I can’t even use that excuse because I am no longer studying! I have free time which is actually free, and it is beautiful. You could say that the free time actually adds up to the endless holidays that students get. Or at least I can tell myself that so that I don’t feel so jealous about all their time to travel and explore…

The beautiful birthday girl

The beautiful birthday girl

I suppose what I do do instead of reading or studying now is bake. I am ok with that. Sometimes baking requires planning and organisation and grown up things like that, so for this cake for my cousin’s 18th, I had to make a practice version of the cake. You know, to make sure it worked out alright (nothing to do with sampling or ensuring that we had our own personal “leftovers”…

 practice cake
For the cake

Ingredients

  • 230g caster sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 240g flour
  • 4 Tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 250ml milk
  • 125g butter
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla essence

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 180ºC. Prepare two round baking tins.
  2. Place eggs and sugar into a bowl and whisk on high until lighter in colour, thick and frothy
  3. Sift flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, salt together and fold into the egg mixture until all ingredients are just wet
  4. Melt down the butter into the milk in a pot on low heat. Add the vanilla essence once mixed together
  5. Add butter-milk mixture to the batter and stir until it reaches a smooth consistency. Mix carefully so as to not lose any of the air in the whipped eggs
  6. Divide batter equally between the two cake tins and place in the preheated oven. Leave to bake for 30 minutes
  7. Once done, remove from the oven and allow to cool before frosting.

Note: for this cake, I completely flattened off both tops using a bread knife. This was so the strawberries could sit safely

For the Salted Caramel

Ingredients

  • 1 Cup caster sugar
  • 100g butter (cubes)
  • 60ml cream

Method

  1. Place the sugar in a pot on a medium-high heat and allow it to melt. Do not stir. Shake the pot to mix the sugar and allow the top dry sugar to get to the heat under the molten sugar
  2. Once a golden colour is reached and all the sugar is dissolved, add the butter and stir until melted and mixed in
  3. Remove from heat and add the cream, stirring vigorously until all is incorporated
  4. Place in a bowl/container and allow to cool before using in this cake
For the Chocolate Ganache

Ingredients

  • 120g dark chocolate (I used Bournville)
  • 80ml cream (pouring or heavy cream)
  • 30g butter

Method 1:

  1. Melt the chocolate in the microwave in 30 second intervals, stirring regularly. Just before all the bits are melted, remove and keep stirring until the heat of the melted chocolate melts the remaining chocolate
  2. Add the butter and allow it to melt into the chocolate
  3. Mix in the cream until a smooth and consistent glossy chocolate mixture forms. Allow to cool slightly before use

Method 2: 

  1. Heat the cream on a stove top. Once simmering, remove from heat and pour over chocolate and butter. Ensure the chocolate has been chopped into small pieces so that it melts easier.

 

caramel ganache layer

For the Chocolate Buttercream frosting

Ingredients

  • 110g butter softened
  • 220g icing sugar
  • 20g cocoa powder
  • 40ml cream (or until desired texture is reached)

Method

  1. Cream the butter (electric whisk on low)
  2. Sift the icing sugar and cocoa powder together, and cream together with the butter
  3. Add the cream in small doses to help the mixture come together and continue to do so until desired consistency is reached
  4. Only frost cake once cake is coooled

Achievement Unlocked – Level Macarons!

achievement

Macarons have been my biggest challenge to date. Generally I am quite satisfied with my ability to follow a recipe and get my expected result. With macarons, however, this was not the case.

Christmas Macarons

[Let me just clarify something quickly: macaroon vs. macaron. Think: coconut vs. almond flour.

Quick recipe for a macaroon: condensed milk and desiccated coconut, mixed in a ratio that lets you form little balls and place on a baking tray to bake at 180º until the edges start to brown and the biscuit is pretty firm]

My first attempt at macarons used a recipe from Dan Lepard‘s cookbook, Short and Sweet, which has proven delicious and basically perfect every time… until now. Then I tried Mary Berry and Great British Bake Off‘s chocolate macarons. I followed the instructions to a T, and they ended up burning anyway.

I figured it was time for a troubleshooting guide, when I stumbled upon this absolute gem. She even linked to her step by step guide to making macarons, which I tried after re-attempting Dan’s recipe using some of her advice. This was my result:

Her recipe was the first to start coming out right. But surely I didn’t have to follow all of her steps? Who has time to wait overnight for egg whites to mature? As it turns out, it is important, and it makes a substantial difference.

What also helped, was this guy. I absolutely love his work! His tutorials on macarons showed me that I might have been over-beating my eggs, and maybe I was “not overmixing” too carefully. Fully incorporated, people!

Red Christmas macarons

Eventually, I ended up with these bad boys, which I made for our Christmas party. Aren’t they beautiful! And added bonus was that they were gluten free, so everyone, even the fussies (though not the Banting folk), could enjoy dessert.

They were accompanied by vanilla cupcakes with green cream cheese frosting, and cute little marshmallow reindeer that my little cousin thoroughly enjoyed.

Marshmallow reindeer

Marshmallow reindeer

Vanilla cupcakes with cream cheese frosting

Vanilla cupcakes with cream cheese frosting

Macarons

Makes about 30 sandwiches

Ingredients

  • 3 egg whites
  • ¼ tsp creme of tartar
  • 210g powdered (icing) sugar
  • 125g ground almonds/almond meal/almond flour
  • 30g caster (granulated) sugar

Method

  1. Separate the egg whites. Leave overnight to mature in the fridge, and remove from fridge well ahead of time to allow to come to room temperature
  2. Sift the icing sugar and ground almonds together. Place this into a food processor and blend together until very fine and resembles a flour. Do this in stages, and make sure you’ve scraped down the sides of the food processor to break everything up. Also don’t go for so long that the mixture starts to heat up (we are making macarons, not over-sweetened almond butter)
  3. Sift the icing sugar-almond mix back into the bowl. If there are any remaining chunks of almond, remove them, they will make the mixture lumpy – DO NOT PUSH THEM THROUGH
  4. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites and creme of tartar until very soft peaks form – peaks should hold their shape for long. Add the granulated sugar here in two stages, beating until stiff peaks form (but not hard peaks – they should have some movement to them still). Colour your meringue mixture now, using powder or gel food colourings – don’t use liquid colouring
  5. Add one third of the almond mix and fold in gently. Once it has started to combine, add the second third, and repeat with the final third. Ensure mixture is of the same consistency and there are no dry patches
  6. Place mixture into a piping bag fitted with a round nozzle about 0.5-0.8cm in diameter. Pipe this onto a stencilled mat or template, taking care not to put too much mixture for each biscuit as they spread quite a bit. Tap the baking tray firmly onto your working surface to remove any air bubbles. If there are remaining bubbles on the surface, give these a pop with a tooth pick
  7. Leave to form a shell at room temperature for at least 30 minutes. Just before that time is up, preheat oven to 160ºC
  8. Place baking tray in the oven, and bake for 10 minutes, then reduce temperature to 140ºC and continue to bake for another 5-7 minutes
  9. Remove from the oven and allow to cool before sandwiching together with filling. I filled mine with canned caramel (boiled condensed milk trick) sprinkled with some salt (salted caramel), a coffee buttercream, and some leftover green cream cheese frosting from the cupcakes

Alice in Wonderland Party – Red Velvet Queen of Hearts

The person that wrote Alice in Wonderland was definitely cooked off his rocker. But, some of the best things in life are just that: cooked! (Or “Mad”, if we want to go full-on Alice in Wonderland reference)

Mom’s “hat braai” had me wanting to do a real mad-hatter theme party. Actually, my mini steampunk hat made me want to do a Mad Hatter’s party. I couldn’t go straight “Hat”, though – can’t be copying my mother – so I went with the whimsical land of Alice, with all of it’s crazy tea-parties and glam of the Queen of Hearts.

It turned out quite well: everyone was dressed up, and the theme actually lent itself to great decorations. See my Pinterest board for inspiration.

Red Velvet Cupcakes 3

Following the carrot cupcakes of the other day, I needed to make that cream cheese frosting again. Emphasis there on the word needed. It really was that good. The red velvet cupcakes came out so cute as well! I may have left them out in the open for a bit long, however, so they weren’t as moist as they should have been. The flavour, though, was great, really does the iconic red velvet cupcake.

Red Velvet cupcakes

I have to admit that there is a disappointing amount of cocoa in the red velvet mixture. 1 Tbsp? What’s the point!? Either way, apart from some of the random ingredients (don’t be put off by the smell of the mixture or the consistency of some of the ingredients), these cupcakes are really easy to make (mix mix mix everything together!). Though you might not want to eat the cupcake batter, you will definitely want to dig into the finished product (some may argue that there isn’t even a point to making the cupcakes if you can’t enjoy the batter, but bear with me for that little red gem of joy). Again, I used this recipe from One Sweet Appetite, because her carrot cupcakes were so good, there was no doubt that the red velvet ones would speak to me on the same level.

Red Velvet cupcakes 2

Red Velvet Cupcakes – makes 24

Ingredients

  • 2 ½ C cake flour
  • 1 ½ C caster sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 Tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 ½ C vegetable oil
  • 1 C buttermilk
  • 2 Tbsp red food colouring
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp vinegar (I used apple cider because that’s what we had, and it’s an acceptable vinegar substitute for most recipes, which is good to note)

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 180ºC
  2. Prepare your cupcake tin (liners or greased)
  3. Sift all the dry ingredients into a large bowl
  4. Whisk all the wet ingredients together until well-combined
  5. Mix the wet ingredients in with the dry ingredients until the mixture is of even consistency. Note to self: do not lick the batter spoon
  6. Divide evenly, about ²⁄³ full
  7. Place in the oven on the middle shelf, for 15 minutes, or until the sounds of wet-baking have disappeared, and a skewer comes out the centre of the cupcake dry
  8. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely before frosting

 

Cream Cheese Frosting – enough to generously frost 24 cupcakes (and eat the leftovers)

Ingredients

  • 250g cream cheese
  • 5 tsp softened butter (not melted)
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 ½ C icing (powdered/confectioner’s) sugar

Method

  1. Cream the butter and cream cheese together until soft (this makes it easier to mix the sugar in, instead of having the chunks of dairy flying around)
  2. Add the icing sugar and mix slightly before beating until well-combined and of a desired consistency (like whipped cream or a solid buttercream frosting)
  3. Pipe onto your cupcakes

Maybe I do like carrot cake

Obviously, as a chocolate and sweet-things lover, I am not particularly fond of adding healthy things like vegetables to my delicious treats, not even cupcakes. It’s part of the reason I struggle so much with trying to be healthy: Zucchini brownies? No thanks! So this was my first experiment with vegetables in a not-vegetable thing. And it wasn’t half bad (actually, they were amazing!). I do have to admit, though, that these cupcakes are really not any healthier than a regular cupcakes (maybe just because they have some extra vitamins, but as far as Macros go, these are just as bad as any other).

Cutesie little carrot cupcakes with the world's greatest cream cheese frosting

Cutesie little carrot cupcakes with the world’s greatest cream cheese frosting

I was pretty impressed with these babies, but I won’t be making them again any time soon. The  cream cheese frosting on the other hand… Now those I am absolutely making for Merry Unbirthday Party on Saturday! It’s going to be a treat (or much more!) and I will share the frosting recipe with you once I’ve got some other exciting photos. You know, keeping you in suspense and stuff! Trust me, it’s worth the wait – and I never even liked cream cheese frosting before I had this.

Maybe I got a little bit overenthusiastic when I used my new piping bags... Doesn't it remind you of a huuuuuuge ice cream? One day I'll show you just how much I thought it did...

Maybe I got a little bit overenthusiastic when I used my new piping bags… Doesn’t it remind you of a huuuuuuge ice cream? One day I’ll show you just how much I thought it did…

Carrot Cupcakes

makes 24

Ingredients

  • 6 medium (±12cm) carrots, grated
  • 2 ½ cups cake flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 ½ cups caster sugar
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 1 ½ cups cooking oil
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 ¼ tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 ¼ tsp ground nutmeg
  • ½ tsp salt

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 180ºC. Prepare your cupcake liners
  2. Sift and mix together the dry ingredients – flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg (save the sugars). Add your grated carrot and mix together until carrots are evenly distributed
  3. Mix the eggs and sugars together until they start to foam, then add the oil and mix well
  4. Add the wet mixture to the carrot-flour mix, and mix until there are no dry patches
  5. Distribute the mixture evenly between the cupcake liners
  6. Place the cupcakes in the oven on the middle shelf and bake for 15-20 minutes
  7. Remove from the oven and leave to cool completely before frosting

3-Ingredient Bar One Cupcakes

Note: this definitely classifies as one of my “Sweet Experiments”, but it is more of an adaptation of another recipe rather than being made according to an actual recipe. It is based on a recipe for 3-ingredient Nutella brownies that I found on Pinterest, but I am not sure on the actual origin, so I can only direct you here. So I bring to you 3-Ingredient Bar One Cupcakes.

Teddy awaits a gorgeous Bar One Cupcake

Teddy awaits a gorgeous Bar One Cupcake. He needed some new love…

I followed the same recipe of 1 cup of chocolate-y-ness, 10tbsp flour, and two eggs, but this time it was more challenging. The bar one has to be melted down first, in order for it to be mixed into batter form.

Melty melty Bar Ones. I id it as a Bain-Marie, but with the milk you could probably get away with using a microwave, just don't burn that delicious chocolate

Melty melty Bar Ones. I id it as a Bain-Marie, but with the milk you could probably get away with using a microwave, just don’t burn that delicious chocolate

Some milk is also added so that it keeps its more liquid consistency, which makes the stirring in of the other ingredients easier. Then the flour is added while the melted Bar Ones are still quite warm and runny. This also gives the mixture an opportunity for the mixture to cool down a bit before adding the eggs, to avoid a scrambled egg effect.

This is the chocolate that you must make sure you do not eat. You need it for the recipe. Just keep reminding yourself of that. Trust me, I understand the temptation. This is basically the colour of the completed batter as well

This is the chocolate that you must make sure you do not eat. You need it for the recipe. Just keep reminding yourself of that. Trust me, I understand the temptation. This is basically the colour of the completed batter as well

They rise in quite an interesting way as well. Keep an eye on them so they don't burn, and make sure your pan is well-prepared for all that melted chocolate

They rise in quite an interesting way as well. Keep an eye on them so they don’t burn, and make sure your pan is well-prepared for all that melted chocolate

They turned out quite nice, but not as sweet and moist as I had expected. Bearing this in mind, I had a similar outcome when attempting the Nutella version: the muffin/brownie is kind of dry. The end outcome is a subtle chocolate muffin, nothing too special about the flavour, apart from the obvious Bar One undertones in the chocolate flavour of the muffin, which was nice, obviously. It’s a good thing that the muffin itself is not too sweet though…

Check out those sexy muffin-bottoms! Quite an interesting and unintentional effect

Check out those sexy muffin-bottoms! Quite an interesting and unintentional effect

The real star of the show is the Bar One sauce/”frosting”. It’s very sweet, which offsets the subtle muffin and gives the whole thing a really great taste experience. It also adds some texture to the cupcake, and a lot stickier than your conventional frosting. It’s absolutely amazing, in fact.

A simple cupcake with the best sauce-y frosting you could ask for. No wonder Rainbow Teddy has a smile on his face

A simple cupcake with the best sauce-y frosting you could ask for. No wonder Rainbow Teddy has a smile on his face

Please note though, that this recipe makes a humble 6 cupcakes, which is fine if you’re baking for yourself to eat, right? So be sure to double the recipe if it is meant for sharing.

3-Ingredient Bar One Cupcakes 

Makes 6 cupcakes

Ingredients

  • 250 g Melted Bar Ones
  • 30 ml Milk
  • 10 tbsp flour
  • 2 large eggs
  • 50 g melted Bar Ones with dash of milk for the icing

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celcius, and line a muffin tray
  2. Melt the Bar Ones to a very runny consistency, adding the milk as the mixture requires (it helps to have the milk in early so that stirring is easier)
  3. Remove the melted chocolate and add the flour, mixing until all the flour is well mixed (should not have any white bits visible – a nice smooth consistency). Let mixture cool slightly (must still be runny)
  4. Add the eggs and stir vigorously until ingredients are thoroughly mixed together
  5. Spoon mixture into prepared tray, and bake for 15-20 minutes (be sure not to let muffin edges brown – this will produce a very dry muffin)
  6. Remove muffins and let them cool
  7. Melt remaining 50g of Bar One with a dash of milk (about a tablespoon), stirring continuously to get a smooth mixture
  8. Pour Bar One sauce over muffins. Don’t be too generous as the sauce runs eagerly to the sides of the muffin