Gingerbread Cupcakes

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It’s now December, which means tis the season (despite the fact that I’ve done Christmassy recipes the last two weeks). I have my advent calendar (Peppa Pig, chosen by my housemate), and we’re putting up our decorations next week! The semester is almost over, which means I have more essays to write, but I’m really looking forward to having a break and have time to catch up on some reading.

For one of my seminars each week someone presents, and whoever is presenting brings cake. This week was my week, and I wanted to make something very seasonal, so I decided on gingerbread cupcakes! These are delicious – and not only because they have cream cheese icing on. I’d never thought about making gingerbread in cupcake form before, and I’m really glad I came across this recipe!

The icing was supposed to have lemon zest in, which sounds like an excellent addition, but I forgot to put it in because I was so preoccupied with my icing becoming lumpy. Try mixing 600g icing sugar into 100g butter by hand – then you will feel my pain. I felt like my arm was going to fall off, and then I added the cream cheese and there were lumps and it felt like a disaster at the time, but once I’d iced them it wasn’t noticeable. Phew. I swear I used to be able to make cream cheese icing without anything going wrong, but the last few times I’ve made it, something has always gone wrong, which has made me reluctant to ever make it again. I probably need a hand whisk back in my life.

The original idea was that I’d decorate these cupcakes with the gingerbread men I made last week. That didn’t happen – not least because I iced the cupcakes so beautifully (if I do say so myself) that I didn’t want to ruin it by plonking a gingerbread man on top. That said, both cupcakes and gingerbread were well received separately – I think if I make the cupcakes again I might make some smaller gingerbread decorations to go on, like little circles or stars or something. Continue reading “Gingerbread Cupcakes”

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Coffee and Chocolate Loaf

IMG_0588tThis week has been a mixture of boredom and awesomeness. I’ve spent a significant portion of my time trying to find a job in Norwich, which has involved filled out a LOT of boring personality quizzes in order for various large companies to discern whether I am employable (spoiler: I’m not). The rest of the week has been spending time with Oli and my awesome friends and drinking a little too much beer. I’m feeling pretty sorry for myself at the moment after I spent yesterday going to all of my favourite pubs in Cambridge. Seven pubs in one day is not particularly achievable. But we played an edition of Trivial Pursuit from 1983, ate great food and drank awesome beer, and my friend Rosie made me flapjacks and gave me a lemon thyme plant as a going away gift which was super lovely <3.

I made this chocolate and coffee loaf yesterday morning, and whilst it was in the oven I went to have brunch at my local pub. .I was pretty happy because I managed to time my return perfectly, and it was just done when I got home. A lot of recipes for loaf cakes say they’ll take an hour or whatever, but then actually turn out to take much longer. Not this one though!

It’s basically like a rich, dense but moist chocolate cake. The coffee is more like a subtle hint than an overpowering flavour. I put more coffee than the original recipe suggested because I felt like the coffee taste would be masked by all the chocolate. I’d like to try making it again substituting the milk for more coffee to see if it balances out the flavours more. But it’s pretty delicious as is, and great to eat with a cup of tea. Highly recommend this as a mid-morning cake for coffee with friends.

Next week, I will be leaving Cambridge. I haven’t worked out when I’m going to make this yet, because I’m to-ing and fro-ing a lot this week, but at some point I will be making Pear and Maple Syrup cake. I will be impressed if I manage not to miss this one

Coffee and Chocolate Loaf (adapted from ‘Hummingbird Bakery: Cake Days’ by Tarek Malouf)

190g butter, softened, plus extra for greasing

130g plain flour, plus extra for dusting

140g soft dark brown sugar

50g caster sugar

3 large eggs

60g cocoa powder

1tsp baking powder

20ml whole milk

2 tbsp strong coffee (brewed and cooled)

1. Preheat the oven to 170C/Gas 3, then grease the loaf tin with butter and dust with flour.

2. Cream the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition, and scraping down the sides of the bowl to make sure all the ingredients are mixed in properly.

3. Sift together the flour, cocoa powder and baking powder, then pour the milk into a jug, add the coffee and mix together. Add the dry ingredients to the cake batter in two batches, alternating with the coffee milk. Mix well after each addition.

4. Once all ingredients have been incorporated, beat until batter is smooth and even, then pour the mixture into the loaf tin. Place in oven and bake for approx. 1 hour or until the sponge is firm and a skewer inserted comes out clean. Allow to cool for a while in the tin before turning it out on to a wire rack.

Plum Cupcakes

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This week I spent a few days staying with Laura in Gloucestershire. Laura lives on the edge of the Forest of Dean, where  everything is beautiful and green and just downright lovely. We picked plums in her garden and made perhaps the tartest plum crumble ever. When I start picking fruit I never want to stop if there’s more to pick – which lead to us picking about 3-4kg of plums – including some that weren’t quite ripe enough…hence the tartness. But the joyous result of my excessive picking was that I got to bring some back home with me! So on Friday I got down to making a small batch of plum jam (also a little tart), which I then used to make plum cupcakes. I still have another 500g or so of plums left, so they’ll be used to make plum pie next week. 

I’m also moving next week, and so I’ve spent the last couple of days going through things and packing stuff in boxes. My room looks bare, and there’s an ever-increasing pile of boxes in my living room. You never realise how much stuff you have until you have to pack it all up. I haven’t even started on my kitchen yet (that’s not happening for another week or two), and so by the time I’m all done, the pile will probably have doubled. I’m trying to reduce the amount of stuff I have, but as a lifetime lover of books and CDs, some things are just too hard to part with. The only good news is that most of the stuff I’ve accumulated over the two years of living here is useful stuff, like kitchenware, rather than just random crap. 

But back to lovely plum cupcakes! Despite my complaints about Hummingbird the other week, I have gone back to them, yet again. I’ve messed about with the recipe a bit though, and I thought the cupcakes looked so good with jam oozing out of the top when I took them out of the oven that I decided not to ice them. They’re sweet enough already, who needs vast quantities of icing? 

Next week: Plum pie

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Plum Cupcakes (adapted from ‘Hummingbird Bakery Cake Days’ by Tarek Malouf)

This made 12 + 1 tiny one, but I used large muffin cases, so it’d probably make about 16 if you’re making little ones.

120g butter, softened

340g plain flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

2 eggs

360g soft light brown sugar

180ml buttermilk

200g-270g (approx.) plum jam (if you want to make your own, see here)

1. Preheat the oven to 190C/Gas 5 and line a muffin tin (or two) with paper cases. 

2. Using an electric whisk (or your fingertips), mix together the butter, flour, baking powder and salt until like crumbs. In a separate bowl whisk together the sugar, eggs, buttermilk and 120g of the jam until all ingredients are combined. Add half of this to the dry ingredients and mix until incorporated, then add the rest and mix until smooth. 

3. Fill each paper case 1/3 full with batter, then top with 1 tsp of jam, followed by a similar quantity of batter, so the cases are about 2/3 full (my jam filling ended up a little higher than this). The jam will create a filling as the cakes bake. Bake for around 20 mins, or until the tops spring back when pressed. Leave to cool slightly before transferring to a wire rack to cool. 

 

Spinach and Cheese Muffins

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So I’ll be leaving Canada soon :(, and to go with my sadness about leaving my friends behind, here’s a whiney post about how increasingly disappointed I am with the Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook. Up until this year I’d mainly used it for cupcake recipes which for the most part turned out well and were tasty, etc – but now I’m starting to sample more of the other things the book has to offer, I’m starting to realise how disappointing, some of the recipes are. These spinach and cheese muffins were a disappointment, no two ways about it. I really like the idea of savoury muffins which is why I decided to make them, but they’re kind of tasteless, even with all the cheese – the only thing giving them flavour is the red onion. I know spinach doesn’t taste of much, but even so. The quantity of spinach is ridiculous, there’s so much that it’s almost impossible to make it disappear into the muffin mix. If I wanted to eat them again (which I don’t) I would start with half the amount, so 65g, and then add more as seemed necessary.

The recipe is below, maybe someone else will be able to make some better versions than I did. I’m kind of disheartened with this book, and I might swap out some of the recipes I have left to make from it on my list for other, better things.

Also they went mouldy within a few days. NOT COOL GUYS. Seriously.

Next week: I’ll be back in England and making Semolina Cake with Honey and Pistachio!

 

Spinach and Cheese Muffins (from The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook by Tarek Malouf)

Makes 12

30g butter
1/2 small red onion, finely chopped
360g plain flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cayenne pepper
250g cheddar cheese, grated
220ml whole milk
1 egg
130g baby spinach leaves

1. Preheat the oven to 170C/Gas 3. Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat, then fry the onion until cooked. Set aside.
2. Put the flour, baking powder, cayenne and cheese in a large bowl. In another bowl mix the milk and egg together, then slowly pour into the flour mixture and beat with an electric whisk until well mixed. Stir in the onion until evenly dispersed.
3. Spoon the mixture into the paper cases until 2/3rds full and bake for 30-35mins, or until deep golden and a skewer inserted comes out clean. Leave to cool slightly before moving to a wire rack to cool completely.

Lemon Bars

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What a week! It’s still super hot here, which means it’s even hotter where I work, and we’ve been busy doing window displays and making things pretty for a Mad Hatter’s Tea Party themed day. I got up at 7am yesterday and made 40 jam tarts before 9:30 and then went to work. And I’ve been helping Oli clean his house, which he moved out of yesterday. All in all I’m pretty tired, but luckily I made these lemon bars earlier in the week when things were less busy – but I’ve also been too busy to eat them. That will change today.

I got my food processor on Monday, which is very exciting, although I haven’t used it yet, because somewhere in my head I thought that making lemon bars would require a food processor. Nope. One day I will learn to read recipes. So as it turned out they were pretty straightforward, and just involved a lot of zesting of lemons (managed to grate my thumb – safety warning). I have eaten one, and they were good, and very lemony (duh), but other than that, not that exciting. When I was making them I was thinking of the tartest lemon tart I ever had which was made by Jordi, it was delicious but also made you pull a face every time you took a bite because the lemon was so strong. I thought my lemon bars might turn out like that, but almost disappointingly, they didn’t.

This time next week I will be on a plane to Canada, so if my to do list before then doesn’t stop me (seriously, I have so much to do), I will be queuing new posts whilst I’m gone and it will be just like I’m here. Except I won’t have much interesting to report. Maybe I’ll edit them with exciting Canada updates. We’ll see. I’m not committing to anything here.

As a final note, I will apologise for a lot of the recipes being from the Hummingbird Bakery at the moment. It will get more varied come autumn when we’re doing apple, fig and pear recipes, promise.

Next week: Peaches and Yogurt Ice Cream

 

Lemon Bars (from the Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook by Tarek Malouf)

Makes about 12

210g caster sugar

3 eggs

100ml freshly squeezed lemon juice

3 tsp grated lemon zest

base:

290g plain flour

70g icing sugar

230g butter

2 tsp grated lemon zest

 

1. Preheat the oven to 170C/Gas 3. Line a 33 x 23 x 5cm baking tray with greaseproof paper.

2. For the base, put the flour, sugar, butter and lemon zest in an electric mixer and beat together until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs (or rub the butter into the dry ingredients by hand). Press the dough together with your hands, then press it evenly into the base of the tray. Bake for about 20 mins, or until light golden. Leave to cool slightly.

3. Put the sugar, eggs, lemon juice and zest in a bowl and whisk until well mixed. Pour carefully over the baked base and return to the oven. Bake for 20 mins, or until the edges are golden brown and the topping has set. Leave to cool completely, then cover and refrigerate overnight.

Brooklyn Blackout Cake

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I’ve had an awesome but crazy busy few days, and so as I start writing this I still haven’t iced the cake I’ve made this week. It’s kind of been a disaster. I got up early yesterday morning to make the cake before I spent the day sitting by the River Cam, drinking beer and eating BBQ. I left the ‘chocolate custard’ to make until this afternoon, which I’ve spent at my parents’ house. I’m pretty lucky I did, because otherwise I don’t think I would’ve made the chocolate custard at all. My mum basically made it for me after I had a cornflour-related incident and then kind of gave up a bit. It is now cooling, but still isn’t set. I’m posting this now because the chances are that by the time it is set, it will no longer be Sunday. 

The moral of this story is, don’t make complicated icing/custard when you’re incredibly tired, and don’t mix water with cornflour like I did – i.e. pouring all the water into the cornflour, then going to stir it and realising it was solid. Panic ensued, and I had to call in reinforcements to salvage it (because there wasn’t another 200g of cornflour, and in villages on Sunday evenings there is nowhere to buy more). My mum managed to get it to a roughly ‘thick glue’ consistency, and then came the horribly laborious process of adding it to the chocolate mixture, without it going lumpy. Over about an hour both me and my parents took turns stirring it, but as soon as we increased the heat it would start to go lumpy. It was ridiculous. Never make this custard, just make icing instead. 

Anyway, I’m watching the end of the World Cup Final, with dwindling hope of finishing the cake. It was supposed to be a donation to my mum’s friend’s Strawberry Tea Fundraiser for breast cancer, so I’m hoping that come morning the custard will be set and my mum will be able to ice it. Oh dear! 

There were some cakes that were completed this week though. I made Millionaire’s Shortbread for my friend Rachel’s birthday. Laura came to stay and we made delicious brownies today. And my sister baked me an awesome lemon birthday cake (see above). Fingers crossed for more success next week when I will be making peach jam scones. 

If you want to make this cake, it’s in the Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook. I would type it here, but I feel like I shouldn’t be encouraging people to make it as it has failed so miserably for me (cake excluded I suppose).