Sunday 30 December 2012

Heavenly Vanilla Cupcakes

Merry Christmas everyone! I hope you all had a wonderful time over the festive season with lots to eat and drink and lots and lots of presents. I for one had a great Christmas. It was the first year N and I had hosted and for some reason I thought hosting Christmas Day and Boxing Day would be a good idea! I enjoyed every minute of it and made some great food but by the end I told N that I didn't want to cook anything again for another week! The look of horror on N's face was priceless! I did assure him I was only joking but I'm not sure he was convinced as I have somehow managed to avoid cooking dinner since Boxing Day. I think N is very concerned about where his next meal is coming from!

Although I haven't cooked anything for the last few days yesterday I did do some baking. One of my presents from a friend at work was The Hummingbird Bakery Cake Days recipe book. It is definitely one of the most beautiful recipe books I own. Every single page is full of the most exquisite cakes. Unfortunately most of them require a little planning as they use ingredients I don't really keep at home. But I did manage to find a recipe for some vanilla cupcakes that didn't require me to head out to the shops. I vowed to myself that I would follow the recipe to the letter as I wanted to see what all the fuss was about but I just couldn't bring myself to do it! Firstly, the recipe indicated the use of full fat milk, which I never keep at home and if I did buy it specially the rest would just go to waste. So I took the risk of substituting it for semi-skimmed. Secondly, was the huge amount of sugar the recipe required. As I started to pour it in to my mixing bowl I just couldn't do it. I reduced it by about a qaurter in the end and it tasted just fine. For the frosting, I made only half the quantity suggested and it was plenty. The cupcakes were still covered well and the ratio of cake to frosting was perfect.

When I started out baking the cakes I wondered what all the fuss could be about. Why are Hummingbird cakes so famous. After tasting it I know why. These are probably the best cakes I have ever eaten and I felt so chuffed that I had made them myself. I distributed a few to friends and family and when you get a text back saying 'Oh my god the cupcakes are absolute heaven! I have just eaten two!' you know they must be pretty good!

Heavenly Vanilla Cupcakes
(makes 12 | Total prep and cooking time 1 hour + 30 mins cooling time)

Ingredients for the sponge
- 80g unsalted butter, softened
- 210g caster sugar
- 230g plain flour (sifted)
- 1 tablespoon baking powder (sifted)
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 240ml semi-skimmed milk
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract or powder
- 2 large eggs

Ingredients for the frosting
- 225g icing sugar
- 80g unsalted butter, softened
- 25ml semi-skimmed milk
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract or powder
- chocolate sprinkles

- Preheat the oven to 180 degrees fan and line a deep muffin tin with muffin cases
- Using a hand-held electric whisk or fresstanding electric mixer slowly beat together the butter, sugar, flour, baking powder and salt until all the ingredients are well mixed and resemble fine breadcrumbs
- Mix together the milk, eggs and vanilla by hand in a jug. With the whisk still on a low speed, pour three-quarters of the milk mixture into the dry ingredients and mix well to make sure all the ingredients are fully incorporated. Add the rest of the mixture and beat again on a medium setting until the batter is smooth.
- Spoon the batter into the muffin cases up to about two-thirds full. Put the in oven for 20 minutes. Check they are springy to touch and a skewer comes out clean, if not put in for a bit longer. Do not be tempted to open the oven door within the first 20 minutes. Leave to cool slightly before removing from the tin and cooling on a wire rack
- While the cakes are in the oven make th frosting. Whisk the icing sugar and butter on a low speed using the electric whisk until fully combined and sandy in consistency. Add the vanilla to the milk and pour into the butter and icing sugar while still mixing on a low speed. Increase the speed to high and whisk the frosting until light and fluffy
- Once the cupcakes are cool, add the frosting, smoothing with a palette knife. Decorate with chocolate sprinkles

Thursday 20 December 2012

Melt-in-the-middle chocolate pudding

How many of you have dessert after a weekday dinner? I've never really had a sweet tooth but N has and his bad influence has definitely rubbed off on me. We don't have a formal dessert every evening but we do tend to have something sweet after dinner. It might just be a fruit yoghurt or some ice cream or perhaps just a little piece of chocolate. It's still 5 days till Christmas and we've already run out of chocolates on our Christmas tree!

Once in a while though, I do like to have a real dessert in the evening. Sometimes I buy some profiteroles or a mousse from Marks and Spencers but I'd really love to make one myself more often, if only I had the time. This recipe solves all those problems. Not only is it a chocoholics delight but it's super quick to prepare (approx 10 mins) and takes only 20 mins to cook so as soon you sit down to eat dinner just pop it in to the oven. It's also perfect for a dinner party as it can be made earlier in the day and then just cooked when you need it. It looks best if you make them in individual ramekins but as I now realise that's the one thing my kitchen is lacking. It's probably a bit late to put that on my Christmas list but if anyone who's planning to buy me a gift is stuck for ideas....

Melt-in-the-middle chocolate pudding
(serves 2 | total prep and cooking time approx 30 mins)
  •  50g unsalted butter + extra to grease
  • 1 teaspoon cocoa powder
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 40g caster sugar
  • 50g plain flour
  • 50g chocolate (min 70% cocoa)

  • Heat the oven to 160 degrees fan
  • Melt the chocolate and butter together in a bain marie
  • Take off the heat and leave to cool
  • Whisk together the egg, egg yolk and sugar
  • Butter the ramekin(s) and dust with cocoa powder. Shake of any excess
  • Whisk the cooled chocolate into the eggs and sugar mixture
  • Sift the flour and stir in to the mixture
  • Transfer into the ramekin(s)
  • Bake for 20 mins