100 Boozy Birthday Cupcakes and Counting

We have been busy bees recently. I put some of our wedding present vouchers to very good use and invested in a beautiful Candy Apple Kitchenaid Mixer. I have christened her Joni and she has already proven her weight in gold.

Introducing Joni my candy apple buttercream dream making machine Kitchenaid mixer

Introducing Joni my candy apple buttercream dream making machine

My 30th birthday was approaching fast and wanting to mark the occasion my friend Jill (who’s birthday just so happens to be the day before mine!) and I decided to have a little soiree at our local pub. Cupcakes seemed to be a good option for a gathering, so we didn’t have to worry about plates, knives and such like. It also meant that we could go a bit mad with the flavour combinations too.

What a lucky birthday girl I am with 2 surprise birthday cakes!

On my actual birthday! What a lucky birthday girl I am with 2 surprise birthday cakes from my mam and my sister. We’re not going to go hungry. EVER.

The week before our birthdays, Jill and I spent a merry evening baking everything in sight. Modifying Hummingbird Bakery recipes to our hearts content. It’s amazing what can be achieved in 3 hours by two 29 year old girls, armed with a Kitchenaid and a bottle of prosecco. We got very creative indeed.

How many cupcakes can 2 girls make in less than 3 hours whilst drinking a bottle of fizz??

How many cupcakes can 2 girls make in less than 3 hours whilst drinking a bottle of fizz?? There’s still more in the oven…

We baked well over 100 cakes and still made it to the pub afterwards to meet our husbands. I must admit we sampled rather a few along the way so not all of the cakes made it into our freezers to await their icing. It’s hard to resist when you’ve got cupcakes hot out of the oven dancing in front of your eyes.

The beginnings of Pina Colada Bundt cakes from a genuinely German Gugelhupf tin!

The beginnings of Pina Colada Bundt cakes from a genuinely German Gugelhupf tin! Soaking in white rum syrup

The following week we defrosted our cupcakes and spent an entire day icing the lot, with lashings of buttercream, glitter and ganache. The results were very well received by our friends and the bar staff! The Jasmine green tea cupcakes were a surprise success after I accidentally  emptied the entire bottle of Jasmine Extract into the cupcake batter… They are the most fragrant cupcakes I’ve ever created. Perhaps an acquired taste for some and definitely an excellent air freshener accessory.

Amaretto and Coconut Snowball cupcakes

Amaretto and Coconut Snowball cupcakes – my personal favourite. I shall be rolling many more cakes in coconut in the future

Our 30th birthday party cupcake table

Our 30th birthday party cupcake table! (From left to right; coconut mini bundt cakes, amaretto snowballs cakes, pina colada bundts, jasmine green tea, double chocolate, more jasmine green tea, amaretto sours, and peppermint cream cupcakes,)

Amaretto Sour Swirl Cupcakes

Amaretto Sour Swirl Cupcakes

Pina Colada Gugelhupf cakes

Pina Colada Bundt (Gugelhupf) cakes

Extremely fragrant Green Tea and Jasmine Vintage Rose Swirl Cupcakes (With obligatory birthday glitter and lustre powder)

Extremely fragrant Green Tea and Jasmine Vintage Rose Swirl Cupcakes (With obligatory birthday glitter and lustre powder)

Double chocolate Cupcakes complete with golden lustre, glossy ganache and white chocolate hearts

Double chocolate Cupcakes complete with golden lustre, glossy ganache and white chocolate hearts

Chocolate and Peppermint Cream Cupcakes

Chocolate and Peppermint Cream Cupcakes

Happy birthday to us! What a wonderful start to the new decade!

The Creative Cupcake Modification Method

I’m not entirely sure if this is the scientific way to create your own recipes but it seems to work for me. My basic understanding of creative baking is to find a recipe that works for you then add and subtract from it. Experiment to the extreme! My general guidelines are

  1. Don’t alter the specified oven temperature (unless you have to because you’re using a fan/non fan oven) cupcakes bake at around 170-180 degrees Celsius and should take about 20 minutes depending on the size of your cases
  2. Maintain the combination of wet to dry ingredients
  3. Use whatever is in your cupboards
  4. Feel free to double the quantities if you need to bake lots but be prepared to bake them in stages
  5. Naked cupcakes freeze really well and can keep for a month. Freeze them as soon as they’re cooled in freezer bags/Tupperware and this holds all of the moisture in sponge. Leaving you with a wonderfully moist cupcake when you choose to ice it later on.
  6. You normally need more buttercream than you think so again feel free to make a double batch!
  7. The more you beat buttercream the better it is.
  8. Feel free to experiment with shapes if you have a Madeleine tin, Gugelhupf or mini bunt tin they work really well too
  9. A squiggle of melted chocolate works wonders if you can’t be bothed to whip up buttercream to top your cakes and a sprinkle of coconut and glitter hides a multitude of sins

The Basic Cupcake Recipe

Makes 12-16 cupcakes (using cupcake not muffin sized cases)

For the sponge:
Rub together (using an electric whisk if you have one) the sugar, butter, flour salt and baking powder. When it all looks quite sandy beat in the wet ingredients including your choice of flavouring!

Then pour the smooth liquid batter into prepared cupcake cases in a muffin tin.
Bake for 20-25 minutes in the centre of the oven at 170 degrees celsius until golden brown and springs back when pressed. To be extra certain they’re cooked insert a cocktail stick and if it comes out clean it’s definitely done.

The Basic Cupcake Sponge Ingredients

  • 120g  (4½oz) plain flour
  • 140g (5oz/) caster sugar
  • 1½ tsp baking powder
  • A pinch of salt
  • 40g (1½oz) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 120ml (4½floz) milk
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 egg

Cupcake Roulette!
Choose from an array of flavour combinations such as

Green Tea

  • 3 Jasmine Green Tea bags steeped in 3tbsp just-boiled water (reduce the amount of milk by 3
  • Replace 30 ml of milk with jasmine extract

Vanilla

  • 1 vanilla pod
  • Replace caster sugar with vanilla flavoured sugar (if you have pre-prepared some but if not don’t worry!)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Amaretto

  • Replace 40ml of milk with amaretto
  • You can also add almond extract for extra oomph

Amaretto Sour

  • Replace 40ml of milk with amaretto
  • Add 1 tsp lemon extract
  • Add zest of one lemon

Coconut

  • Replace 25g of flour with desiccated coconut
  • Use coconut milk instead of normal milk

Chocolate

  • Replace 20g of flour with cocoa powder

Lavender

  • Steep the milk in 1 tbs of dried lavender flowers overnight
  • Infuse the sugar with 2tbs of dried lavender flowers for a week
  • Sieve the lavender petals out of the sugar and milk before use
  • Blitz 1 tsp of lavender into the sugar before use

Rose

  • same as lavender but using dried rose petals
  • Replace 1 tbs of milk with rose water

Piña Colada

  • Replace 40ml of milk with Malibu
  • Replace 25 g of flour with desiccated coconut
  • Use coconut milk instead of milk
  • (soak cupcakes in rum syrup whilst still warm)

Chocolate Brandy

  • Replace 40ml of milk with brandy
  • Replace 20g flour with cocoa powder

Orange

  • Use orange extract instead of vanilla
  • Add orange zest

The possibilities are endless! Create your own flavour combinations!!

You could choose your own favourite liquor, (Gin?)  cordial (sasparilla, blackcurrant), extract (Orange Blossom, violet), and just follow this idea. I’m very tempted to create some Brandy Alexander cocktail cupcakes very soon…

Then to choose your topping to enhance your flavour combination even further…

 

The Basic Buttercream Recipe
Depending on your style of icing you may want to double the quantities of buttercream. Piping swirls and roses uses a lot more icing than creating a palette knife swirl.

  • 25 ml milk
  • 250g icing sugar
  • 80g unsalted butter, softened

Icing Flavour Options

Vanilla

  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Amaretto Sour

  • Replace 25 ml milk with amaretto
  • 1 tsp lemon extract
  • Zest of 1 lemon

Coconut

  • use coconut milk

Peppermint

  • Use 1 tsp peppermint extract

The General Buttercream Guidelines

You can see here the rules are simple. Add whatever flavour extracts you like. Substitute milk for liquid or boozy flavourings.  Zests are good to add as they are dry so won’t effect the consistency of the buttercream. If your icing is looking a bit sloppy beat in some more icing sugar and return it to the fridge to set a bit if it’s too runny.

Use a piping bag and star shaped nozzle to pipe swirls,  Mr Whippy peaks, stars or roses onto your cupcakes. Or use a palette knife to smooth a swirl of buttercream onto your cakes.

Syrup

If you would like extra moist cakes you can add a syrup to the sponge whilst it’s still warm.

Tropical White Rum Syrup

  • 200ml white rum
  • 60g sugar

Warm the sugar and rum in a pan over a low heat. Simmer it until it’s reduced by half in volume. Once cooled pour over your cakes. Allow it to soak in before icing your cakes. Feel free to use other flavours too! Lemon juice, rose water, cordial etc make a really good syrup!

Colourings

Using a cocktail stick add a couple of drops of your food colour gel of choice and beat until its fully incorporated. You can always add more if needed.

If you want to swirl 2 colours together, split your buttercream in half. Colour each half whatever you fancy. Pipe one colour buttercream down one side of a piping bag and then pipe the different colour down the other side of the bag. You will then get a lovely swirl of colours on you cupcakes when piping the two colours simultaneously from the same bag!

Chocolate Ganache

  1. Heat up 300ml of double cream to just about boiling
  2. Take it off the heat
  3. Smash up equal amount of dark plain chocolate 300g
  4. Stir the chocolate into the hot cream until completely smooth
  5. Spoon a generous blob onto cupcakes and let gravity do the work to create a smooth level shiny ganache top

You could use white chocolate if you add more white chocolate to the mix as it contains less cocoa solids so it won’t set until there’s more chocolate than cream in the mixture.

  • 150ml double cream
  • 250ml white chocolate

Decoration
Arm yourself with a selection of…

  1. Sprinkles
  2. Glitter
  3. Desiccated coconut
  4. Chocolate shavings
  5. Hand made chocolate swirls (melt chocolate squiggle it onto some grease proof paper allow it to cool and hey presto fancy looking chocolate bits)
  6. Lustre powders
  7. Popping candy
  8. Pearls
  9. Cupcake wrappers (if you have some)

And go wild!

Cupcake Combinations That Work Well

  • Chocolate sponge and peppermint buttercream
  • Jasmine green tea sponge and vanilla buttercream
  • Chocolate sponge and chocolate ganache
  • Amaretto sour sponge and amaretto sour buttercream
  • Piña colada sponge and coconut buttercream
  • Amaretto sponge and coconut buttercream
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Truffled and Fudged – I’m dreaming of a White Christmas

White Chocolate and white chocolate, cocoa and coconut truffles

I feel a bit of fraud putting a number against this bake as its more of a make than a bake. It was also very experimental but who doesn’t love a bit bit of fudge or truffles?! (Yes, I made them both simultaneously and still have chocolate left!)

I’m attempting to find recipes that can be made for Christmas presents, that are wheat free, not perishable and that are postable to Australia. Oh and I also accidentally purchased probably a years supply of white chocolate that needs to be used up quick… Not asking for much am I?

Hence my dalliance with truffles and fudge. As it was an experiment no one was expecting much apart from me. I think I need to learn not to expect everything to turn out perfect as if by magic when I mostly rely upon guess work (despite being guided wonderfully by Margeurite Patton’s Everyday Cooking Bible).

I started with White Chocolate Fudge. The recipe actually asked for dark chocolate but I’m sure it won’t matter that I replace it with white chocolate and vanilla essence. I will let the pictures do the talking…

Lashings of White Chocolate

Melting butter all the butter and sugar and chocolate together

Icing sugar frenzy

This is why I usually don't bother with sifting anything...

Truffley. (Now to set in the fridge)

Bendable, shapable truffles

What flavour would you care to sample? Chocolate, chocolate or coconut?

The Final Truffley Trio

Then on to Fudge Making. It bears quite a lot of resemblance to truffle making, but without eggs…

The beginning of fudge. Looks suspiciously like the beginning of truffles. (White Chocolate, butter, sugar and vanilla)

Let’s whisk

I was aiming for the elusive ‘soft ball stage’ to let me know it was ready. I think I may have missed it as despite over a week in the fridge the damn thing just wouldn’t set!

Fudge (swirly for Halloween)

Fudge (glittery - just because)

In an attempt not to waste this delicious fudgey paste I thought I would bake an experimental cake and shove some in the middle! Like an alternative Victoria Sponge, chocolate and almond with vanilla fudge filling.

It worked a treat and was like a sweeter version of buttercream, (if a slightly crunchy with all that sparkly sugar!) I still have half left. I wonder what else I can make with it?

We’re Jammin’ – Marguerite Patten’s Apple and Ginger Jam – England

Homemade Apple and Ginger Jam

Technically not a bake but as I set my own rules and disregard them frequently, I declare that making something on the oven is almost the same as in the oven. Why quibble over semantics?! Also jam making is a skill that I’m yet to master as my previous charred cherry remains and ruined pan are testament to. Watching a 10 minute River Cottage Preserves Programme does make me a jam expert. New baking commandment. Thou shalt not invent your own jam recipe. Disaster shall prevail if so….

My Own Cherry Jam Recipe... Burnt Toffee

Jam features in so many baked items so I think it’s essential to teach myself how to make it. Also I’m sure Holly Bell whipped up a quick pan of jam in The Great British Bake Off final  therefore I can justify it.

My Wonderful Annotations. Thankfully I can now spell milk... My Mam must have loved those additions to her book.

I dug out my Mam’s proper cookbook. The original Prince cooking bible, complete with little Lauren scribbles and misspelt notes. (Mam must have been thrilled when I did that.) She taught me how to bake from this. I tried to help whenever I could with Graham Gingerbread, Carrot Cake and of course, Rock Buns.

My Mam has always been very good and artistic making impressive celebration cakes for the family. I was a very lucky child to have the Pink Panther, Hello Kitty and most recently Frank n Furter recreated in cake, icing, licorice and glitter for my birthdays. I wish I had some photos to share with you here! I tried to repay the honour by baking Mam her favourite, Christmas Cake. Unfortunately the marzipan snowman got a bit squashed when I pushed a tin lid on it…

The First Ever Christmas Cake That I Baked (2009)

I didn’t really appreciate the wonder of this Everyday Cookbook until I started looking through it over the last couple of weeks. I didn’t even know who Marguerite Patten was, or that she received  for her contributions to cooking, a pioneer of economical cookery. A woman after my own heart.

The one and only Marguerite Patton Ever Day Cook Book

With my remaining wedding apples I wanted to do something special. I LOVE apple and ginger jam and can’t find it anywhere apart from Tynemouth Market once, 2 years ago. But lo and behold Marguerite has a recipe for it!

Apples in Ginger

Only one slight hand injury incurred during some late night apple chopping and I left the apples to marinade in a lot of ginger powder overnight. When I tried to measure out the sugar needed I realised that I had been looking at the wrong side of my scales and had over 1kg of apples, not 1lb that the recipe required. (How did I carry them all back from James and Lara’s wedding!?) It was a very close call and a good catch. I re-weighed everything and after a bit of mental arithmetic I worked out very roughly the proportions of sugar to apple that I needed to get the consistency right.

Rather a lot of apples required...

I know jam is a complicated and delicate process but despite not measuring things correctly, I then threw all of the sugar in at the very start. Upon re-reading the recipe I realised this is NOT what you do. It’s all about getting the magical pectin to seep out of the fruit to make it set, but I had probably ruined it. I followed the rest of the rules however and didn’t stir it once it reached boiling point and hoped that I wouldn’t have to throw out my best pan. Putting the lid on I watched it nervously steam and froth.

Don't Panic! It's all (kind of) under control

It didn’t take long, maybe 15 minutes at the most and then I had jam! But I wouldn’t recommend tasting it at this stage. It’s far too hot…

Looking Jammy

I got a bit carried away when jar shopping . Luckily I bought extra jars, just incase I made more jam than the recipe predicted. It’s almost like I’m psychic. The recipe was only supposed to produce 1lb of jam. I made enough to fill 2 1lbs jars!

Marguerite Pattons' Preserves

I kept a little bit back to have on my toast for breakfast and it was fantastic! Real jam!

If you burn the toast perfectly then Hello Kitty's face appears. It's an art form.

Breakfast Time. Perfect with a cup of tea

Now just to decide if I should keep it all for myself, bake it in a cake or give it away as Christmas presents… What could say ‘I love you’ more than a big jar of homemade jam or ‘I built you a cake?’ What you will need to make your own Apple and Ginger Jam

  • 1lb of apples peeled and chopped in the cubes
  • 1 tsp of ground ginger (although I added far more and think the more ginger the better!)
  • 1lb of granulated sugar
  • No extra citric acid is needed when making apple jam as its got enough pectin in the fruit to set the jam

This recipe yields 1    2/3 lb of jam in total. When I made it it filled two 1lb jars.  Marguerite’s Jam Tips!

  • Marguerite explains that although it’s best to use preserving sugar which has more pectin added to it to encourage the jam to set, you can still use loaf/granulated sugar (which is often cheaper) particularly when preserving fruits with higher levels of natural pectin such as Blackberries.
  • Some fruits such as cherries have low levels of pectin and therefore you will need to use more fruit than sugar and add some citric acid, such as lemon juice to encourage it to set more.
  • If using a fruit with high levels of pectin such as blackcurrants you should use more sugar than fruit. You should get better results when you use more sugar than fruit in any jam as this helps the jam to set.
  • Stew the fruit slowly to maximise the vital pectin extraction