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Posts tagged ‘Cupcake’

Halloween Party Continued…

Further to yesterday’s post, I’ve been preparing further for Halloween. Lying around yesterday, feeling appropriately close to death with bronchitis coursing through my chest, I decided enough was enough. I forced myself full of paracetamol, took out some cake basics from the fridge, and set about baking. Illness will not stop me, and with regular breaks, perching upon a stool to save my energy, with my Partner as chief taster (I can’t taste anything!) and in fully sanitised conditions (naturally!) I have made some chocolate orange cup cakes for a chic Halloween gathering.

My cakes follow the same simple chocolate sponge as described on yesterday’s post with a delicious white chocolate-orange frosting. This is simple to make. Simply take 300g of icing sugar and whisk up with 100g unsalted butter and 40ml of milk. The longer you whisk this icing mixture, the fluffier and lighter it will become. Then in a metal bowl over a pan of water (making sure the water never touches the bowl) I melted approximately 150ml of orange flavoured (and coloured) white chocolate beads, before adding to the whisked icing mixture and folding in well. I then transferred the icing into a piping bag and placed in the fridge for a good 30 minutes or so while the cakes cooled down.

The wonderful orange icing was easy to pipe (I had to warm the bag up a bit with my hands since the chocolate and butter in the icing sets pretty quickly) and once done, I sprinkled with some dark chocolate drops to achieve the halloween contrast of orange and black.

So there you have it. Hopefully, unlike me, you will actually be able to taste the wonderful fusion of chocolate and orange – my Partner tells me it’s good! I leave you with some photos of my halloween party all set up and ready to go. Ok, so I’m way too ill to have any guests round, but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t make the effort right? Happy Halloween everybody!

Birthday cupcakes – pistachio and raspberry with white chocolate frosting a little celebratory gold

It’s my birthday!! Woop woop! And while you read this post, I should be sat somewhere on the Rue St Honoré in Paris, sipping delicately upon a cup of strong French coffee with a couple of Ladurée macrons on the side. For a leo birthday can only sensibly be celebrated with a little class and plenty of extravagance, so while I soak in the sights of the city of love for one day only, why don’t you join me in my pursuit of birthday hedonism by making these amazing little cup cakes. Complete with edible gold leaf, these pistachio and raspberry beauties are more than appropriate for a summer birthday, where a ruling sun requires celebrations in all things golden, sparkling and extravagant. Or at least that’s my excuse. The sponge is fat free, which makes it a guilt-free, lighter pleasure for a summer’s afternoon, while the white chocolate frosting reminds that while healthy food is all very well, its the icing on the cake that feeds the eye and fuels the pleasure. Ah mais oui!

This recipe is something of a reinvention of a recipe on my good friend Celia’s super-cool foodie blog, Lady Aga. As soon as I saw her cake, I wanted to devour it there and then. The problem was, my cake was destined for work, to be shared amongst my colleagues who have been long-promised a birthday cup-cake treat. And as this distribution would inevitably entail a journey on the stuffy tube in rush hour (with added olympic pressures), the fresh cream of Celia’s oeuvre was never going to work, nor indeed the incredible constitution of her multi-layered sponge. I therefore opted to turn her recipe into cupcakes, replacing half the ground pistachios with self-raising flour to encourage the cakes to rise, and replacing the cream filling with a super-indulgent white chocolate frosting. I also baked a raspberry in the middle of the sponge for added moisture and a hidden treat in the cake’s centre.

So, how to make:

Grind up 110g pistachios to a fine powder. Grind up a further 50g or so to a mixture of fine and textured crumbs for use on the topping. Next take 6 large eggs and separate. Whisk up the egg white into soft peaks. In a separate bowl, whisk up the egg yolks with 180g of caster sugar until pale and fluffy. Into the egg yolk mix, fold in the ground pistachios and 110g of self-raising flour and a spoon-full of the egg white to loosen the mixture. Once mixed, fold in the egg whites. Divide the mixture between 12 large-ish cup-cake cases and place a single raspberry in the centre of each cake. Bake at around 200 degrees centigrade for around 20 minutes or until an inserted skewer comes out clean. Be careful not to over-bake or the sponge becomes dry. Remove from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool.

In the meantime, take as many raspberries as you have cakes, melt some white chocolate, and fill each raspberry with a drop or so of chocolate until filled. Prop the raspberries upright in a small container and place in the fridge so the chocolate solidifies.

Next, the icing: slowly melt a bar of white chocolate (around 100g I think, but I can’t really tell how much I was melting as I kept on eating it) over simmering water. As the chocolate starts to melt, add a splash or two of full fat milk to loosen up the mixture to a creamy liquidy chocolate. Meanwhile, take 120g unsalted butter and  mix with 375g icing sugar with around 25ml of full fat milk and a small dash of vanilla extract. This should be whisked for extra creamyness, probably for a good 5-10 minutes. Once light and fluffy, mix in the melted chocolate until thoroughly combined and my god you will have created pure nectar worthy of Mount Olympus itself. Pour your icing into a piping bag with a large star-shaped nozzle (I have no idea what this is called) and place the icing bag in the fridge for 20 mins or so to firm up the frosting a bit. Pipe onto the cooled cupcakes and top with a sprinkle of crumbled pistachios, a chocolate filled raspberry and a little fragment of edible gold leaf for extra extravagance. Or try edible glitter if you prefer.

(Obviously if you can’t be bothered with the piping bag – which I can easily understand – just smooth the icing onto the cake with a palette knife – this can look just as good.

And there you have it. Cakes fit for a King. Or a birthday boy.

All photos are strictly the copyright of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown © 2012 and The Daily Norm. All rights are reserved. 

A baby showered with a chequerboard of tropical cupcakes

We English don’t easily accept the idea of being influenced by America. We’ve always been the slightly supercilious older brother of our younger indefatigable sibling across the pond, wincing at the loosening of our Queen’s erudite parlance, the widening of the vowels, the advent of stuffed-crusts, of bagels and Reese’s peanut butter cups, the creator of drive-thru culinary culture and the over-eager stentorian expression which makes the refined of Kensington tut condescendingly. Yet it’s an indubitable fact of English life that the influence of the big U-S-of-A is all around us, in our music, in our food, on TV, in politics and on the high street, and no more so is this influence felt than in the way we party. The US gave us candy-abundant halloween and fairy light-filled dazzling Christmas spectaculars. And the latest craze which is doing the rounds is the Baby Shower.

According to wikipedia, a Baby Shower is generally thrown either shortly before or shortly after a baby is born. Only women are invited (!) and the new mother in question is “showered” with presents. So when my dear friend Sarah gave birth to a beautiful baby girl, Ruby, a few months ago, and announced that she would finally bring her angelic daughter down to London to be celebrated amongst our vivacious friendship circle, I decided that this baby shower business ought to be tried and tested, refined in the way that only the english know best. For starters we had men, and quite right too. In the modern world, with fathers playing an increasingly dominant role in the daily task of bringing up their children, why shouldn’t they too be showered with gifts and praise and plenty of sweet treats? Presents were showered aplenty – little cute girly outfits and some alcoholic indulgence for papa (when he’s off duty, naturally) and my gift – a norm sketch of course – devoted to little Ruby.

Welcome Ruby (© 2012 Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, pen and ink on paper)

As for the sweet treats – cupcakes went all tropicana, as I chose flavours referencing the mixed and culturally rich heritage of Ruby’s parents – I made one batch of tropical cupcakes –  pineapple and coconut cupcake referencing Sarah’s Jamaican heritage and father Truong’s South Pacific patrimony – while tropical banana meets England’s now demised Hungry Monk restaurant, inventor of the infamous Banoffee Pie, inspiration for my second selection – a banoffee cupcake, loaded with indulgent dulce de leche and a gingery spiced banana sponge. Tropical flavoured, but London refined, these cupcakes were the epitome of english chic, served like a chequerboard of black and white, with one cake covered in coconut and the other in chocolate vermicelli. The fruit in both, and additions of creamy coconut milk and indulgent full fat milk respectively, made these cakes moist and delicious, while the butter cream icing was a suitably indulgent celebration of the beautiful new life in our midsts.

My recipes were adapted from London’s favourite purveyor of cupcakes, the Hummingbird Bakery. To make the pineapple and coconut cupcake, take 140g caster sugar and beat in 40g unsalted butter. Then add 120g plain flour, a pinch of salt, and 1 and a half teaspoons of baking power and mix everything together with an electric mixer. Once everything is combined, gradually mix 120ml of coconut milk and half a teaspoon of vanilla essence into the flour mixture, and finally add and mix in one egg (I actually used a bit more coconut milk – my mother always told me that the softest sponge mixtures always drip of the mixing spoon like syrup, and therefore I always add a bit more milk to achieve this effect – but it’s a matter of personal taste). Prepare 12 paper cupcake cases. Chop up 8 rings of tinned pineapple into small chunks and disperse evenly in the bottom of the paper cases. Pour the cake mixture on top and place in the oven at 170 degrees celsius for around 20-25 minutes. Test with a skewer to make sure the cakes are cooked. The skewer should come out clean. Once the cakes are cooled, make your butter icing. Beat 250g icing sugar with 80g unsalted butter with an electric mixer. Slowly add 25ml of coconut milk and whisk until very white and light and frothy (around 5-10 minutes). Paste onto the cake with a palette knife and sprinkle liberally with desiccated coconut.

The banoffee cupcakes are pretty similar. 140g of caster sugar should be added to 80g of unsalted butter. Then add 120g plain flower, a teaspoon of baking powder, a pinch of salt, a teaspoon of ground ginger and a teaspoon of ground cinnamon. Mix until well combined and then slowly add 120ml of whole milk and two eggs. Separately mash up approximately one largish banana (around 120g peeled) and stir into the cake mixture. Spoon into paper cases and cook at 170 degrees for around 20 minutes. For the icing, beat 250g icing sugar with 80g unsalted butter. Then, if you want to make your icing indulgently dulce de leche, take a small can of condensed milk and simmer on a low heat for 3 hours (yep, this takes patience) without opening the can. Make sure the water doesn’t dry out in the pan and the tin is always covered with water or the tin will explode. After three hours, open up the can and you should find yourself with a tin full of caramel deliciousness. Add a few tablespoons of this to your butter icing mixture depending on how sweet and rich you want it. Build up on your cakes with a palette knife and sprinkle chocolate vermicelli liberally over the cakes.

And there you have it. Uber sophisticated tropical cupcakes, perfect for the summer, whether a baby is forthcoming, newly arrived, or just a distant pipe-dream.

PS: Talking of uber-chic cupcakes, I am SO proud of my friend Celia whose red-velvet multi-layered ombre cake made it into this week’s Sunday Times style section as shown here… amazing!