Cappuccino cupcakes!

I must have made espresso cupcakes at least ten times, but because they’re so good, I’d never really considered the recipe on the opposite page, for cappuccino cupcakes. Until now, that is! And while I love how rich the espresso cupcakes are, with their dark chocolate in the cake and in the icing, these cappuccino cupcakes were certainly very good too: the sponge is quite a strong coffee sponge, and the icing is made with sweet white chocolate so they balance each other nicely. As usual when I make cupcakes, I did half the amount of icing suggested – is it just me who finds that most cupcake recipes make too much icing? If I had made the suggested amount, I am sure there would have been just too much sweet icing and they would have been rather sickly! As it was, the balance was pretty good. I think they look rather cute, too, with chocolate sprinkled over the top – just like real cappuccinos. Well, sort of! One day I would love to host a tea party with these, espresso cupcakes and earl grey cupcakes, and then serve lemonade out of teapots! (Too much?!). Like the espresso cupcakes, the recipe is originally from Nigella Lawson’s ‘How to be a domestic goddess’, one of my favourite ‘fancy’ baking books.

Ingredients (makes 12 cupcakes):

225g butter or margarine

225g self-raising flour

225g golden caster sugar

2 eggs

1 heaped tablespoon instant espresso powder

1 tsp baking powder

2-3 tablespoons milk

For the icing:

80g white chocolate (I used M&S ‘creme brulee’ chocolate as it was all I could find, which gave it a lovely caramel flavour)

30g butter

60g soured cream

130g icing sugar

A couple of teaspoons of cocoa powder or hot chocolate powder to sprinkle over

 

– Preheat the oven to 200c and line a 12-hole muffin tin with paper cases.

– Place all the cake ingredients apart from the milk in a blender, and pulse until combined.

– Gradually add the milk, while beating, until the batter is soft. I think I added a bit too much as it was quite runny, but it didn’t seem to matter!

– Divide between the cases and bake for around 20 minutes, then leave to cool completely before icing.

– For the icing, melt the chocolate and butter in the microwave, and leave to cool slightly before stirring in the soured cream.

– Gradually sift in the icing sugar while beating with an electric whisk.

– Spread a generous amount on each cupcake.

– If you like, sprinkle some cocoa powder or hot chocolate powder over the top to make them look like cappuccinos!

Memorable meals – Trucha in Peru!

This isn’t a post about baking, but rather about eating! A couple of years ago I travelled to Peru, a memorable trip for many reasons, one of which was the food! It really did range from the sublime…

Possibly the creamiest cake I’ve ever seen!

…to the slightly ridiculous (to my tastes anyway!)

‘Causa rellena’ – basically cold mashed potato….er, yum?

Actually I probably had some of the best and worst food in my life on that trip (chicken soup complete with chicken neck, anyone?). But the most memorable meals for me were memorable because of the experience rather than the food itself. I think it’s just a coincidence that they all involve trout (trucha)…

Machu Picchu. Not strictly related to trout, but it is in Peru…!

The first time I had trout in Peru was in a village in the sacred valley. We’d been working all morning to clear some land, so of course by lunchtime we were starving and boiling hot, and would have been grateful for any sort of food. What we were served, though, was incredible: half a trout, freshly caught from the river, flattened and fried. When I say half a trout – these fish had just been cut in the middle, and were served complete with head or tail (I got a tail, which I was secretly a bit relieved about: I’m not super keen on my food staring back!). There was no cutlery so we ate with our fingers – pulling the fish right off the bones. I wish I knew how they cooked that fish, because I’ve never tasted anything like it; it was probably helped, though, by the fish being incredibly fresh!

A clay oven cooking potatoes!

Trout #2 was in the countryside just outside of Cusco: we walked up from the village of Chinchero with some of the children we taught (we were there teaching English), and they showed us how to cook potatoes in the oven in the picture which was entirely made from things found in the field – dried mud for the outside, dried grass (I think) which was burnt to heat up the inside, then the potatoes were put in and the oven was sealed with some more clay. We had this with trout, floured and fried, but I politely declined one of the girls’ grandmother’s homemade ‘chicha’ – an alcoholic drink traditionally made by repeatedly chewing and spitting out corn…

Taquile, an island on Lake Titicaca

I also remember the trucha in a tiny little ‘community restaurant’ on Taquile, which was run by three families who alternated each day who was in charge. As everything on the island had to be brought in on tiny boats – they were people on ours bringing huge packs of soft drinks to sell – I guess this trout came directly from Lake Titicaca. The trout was served in what I had by that point started to think of as typical Peruvian style: 2 portions of carbs (rice and chips) and a few vegetables (see the picture at the top!). Almost everything I ate there seemed to come with both rice and chips! To my British tastes this seemed odd – 2 portions of carbohydrate, what’s going on?! – and it did make meals very filling, but yummy nonetheless! The view from this restaurant was simply amazing – it looked right out over the lake:

Eating lunch looking over this was just amazing!

Taquile is in the Peruvian part of Lake Titicaca, and immediately after visiting it we travelled to a Bolivian part of the shore: Copacabana. Not the Copacabana, but a Copacabana nonetheless! Anyhow, there was a row of stalls lining part of the shore, all serving fresh trout in several ways. Although we didn’t eat there they looked really pretty because they were so bright:

Trout stalls in Bolivia, how lovely do they look?!

So, that’s three of my most memorable meals – how about anyone else? Do you have particularly strong memories of certain meals?

Banana loaf (with orange and lemon!)

In my house, only my dad and I like banana loaf, so I had never made it before. But we had two brown-looking bananas and I’d wanted to make it ever since I tasted my friend’s amazing version at uni, so I dug out the trusty Delia’s ‘Complete Cookery Course’ and got to work! Although the original recipe called for four bananas, it worked OK with two, and her addition of citrus zest was a nice touch, and made it different to any I’ve had before. It was a really easy recipe, too – practically an all-in-one! Because this is a fairly old recipe, the weights are in ounces first, with grams after, so I used the imperial weights but I’ve given both below.

Ingredients

3 oz (75g) butter or margarine

4 oz (110g) caster sugar

1 egg, beaten

8 oz (225g) plain flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

4 ripe bananas (but I only used 2 and it was fine)

Zest of 1 orange and 1 lemon

Optionally, 2 oz (50g) walnuts (but I left these out)

– Preheat the oven to 180c; grease a 1lb loaf tin (3.5 x 7.5 inch base / 9 x 19 cm) and line the base.

– Place the margarine, sugar and eggs in a mixing bowl, then sift over the flour and baking powder. Mix with an electric whisk until well-combined – the mixture was quite dry but it didn’t matter.

– In a separate bowl, mash the bananas with a fork.

– Add the mashed banana, orange and lemon zest and walnuts (if using) to the mixing bowl and whisk again thoroughly.

– Transfer the mixture to the loaf tin and bake for 50-55 minutes until it is golden and well risen.

– Slice and eat. My dad has it with butter but I just eat it plain!

Triple-layer lemon and mascarpone cake

We made this for my dad’s birthday – three layers of lemon sponge, sandwiched with homemade lemon curd and mascarpone, a combination idea we got from Nigella’s How to be a Domestic Goddess, one of our most-used baking books. The sponge was just a sponge; it was the filling that really made this. Homemade lemon curd is fabulous, more lemon-y than the bought stuff, but with none of the bitterness or acidity. We made rather a lot, but I’m fairly sure the spare will quickly be used up on toast!

I have to confess, this only ended up as a triple-layer cake because we made the three egg sponge mix before realising that the two 7-inch tins we had planned to use were, in fact, two 8-inch tins. Actually, we only noticed once we had put the mix in them and thought it didn’t look like much…! So we quickly switched to 6-inch tins, which worked fine, and I feel like three layers just seems that bit more indulgent, which is fitting for a birthday cake!

Homemade lemon curd (from Delia Smith’s Complete Cookery Course)

Ingredients:

4 eggs

Zest and juice of 2 lemons

150g caster sugar

100g butter, cut into small pieces

– Place the sugar and lemon zest in a bowl small enough to sit over a pan.

– Whisk the eggs and lemon juice together, then pour this mix over the sugar.

– Add the chopped butter to the bowl.

– Heat a little water in a pan until it is just simmering, then place the bowl over the pan. Keep an eye on the water to make sure it stays at that just-simmering point, whilst stirring the ingredients constantly.

– Heat the ingredients in this way, stirring all the time, until the mixture has thickened. This took us about 20 minutes (the recipe said 10 minutes for half this quantity). It keeps thickening once off the heat, so remove it when it has almost reached the consistency you want, but not quite!


For the sponge, you can use any 3-egg sponge recipe, adding the zest and juice of a lemon, and divide between three 6-inch cake tins. We used the all-in-one recipe from Nigella’s book, which didn’t rise very well (perhaps because it is made in a food processor) but kept better than my usual recipe (Delia’s):

Ingredients:

250g butter at room temperature

250g caster sugar

225g self-raising flour

25g cornflour

3 eggs

Zest and juice of one lemon

1 teaspoon baking powder

– Preheat oven to 180c and grease and line 3 6-inch cake tins.

– Place all ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth and well combined.

– Divide between the tins and bake for 25-30 minutes.

When assembling the cake, you need around 150g mascarpone cheese and roughly two-thirds of the lemon curd.Use both between each layer, and simply sprinkle icing sugar over the top. As you can see from the photos, the lemon curd tended to spill out of the sides, which wasn’t exactly intentional but I thought it looked quite nice so I left it like that!

Raspberry cupcakes!

After we’d made these, my sister declared them the best thing we had ever baked (pushing the blondies into second place already!), and I have to agree they are very good! They seemed appropriate for summer – if you can call this summer, it’s been raining almost constantly for weeks… They’re another from my Primrose Bakery book, and not only do they have raspberry jam swirled through the batter and as a filling in the cupcake, they also have white chocolate in the icing, which makes for some incredibly sweet cupcakes! The quantities given are half of those in the book, and made 12 fairy cakes, which are almost all gone already!

Ingredients:

55g butter (at room temperature)

90g caster sugar

1 egg

60g plain flour

60g self-raising flour

60ml milk

Half a teaspoon vanilla extract

3 tablespoons raspberry jam, plus one teaspoonful per cupcake for filling

For the icing:

20g butter (at room temperature)

1 tablespoon milk

100g icing sugar, sifted

A drop of vanilla extract

50g white chocolate

1.5 tablespoons double cream

Fresh raspberries, to decorate

– Preheat the oven to 180c and line a fairy cake tin with paper cases.

– Cream the butter and sugar thoroughly, which takes about 5 minutes. As there is a lot of sugar compared to butter, I find it easiest to add the sugar gradually.

– Add the egg and mix for a couple more minutes.

– Combine the flours in a bowl, and combine the milk and vanilla extract in a jug.

– Add a third of the flour to the creamed mixture and beat in, then add a third of the milk and beat; continue like this until they are both used up.

– Add the jam: gently fold it in a little to give a swirled effect.

– Divide between the paper cases and bake for around 20 minutes.

– Once cool, use a teaspoon or sharp knife to make a hole in the centre of each one, and add a small teaspoon of raspberry jam. The recipe wasn’t entirely clear about how to do this: we took a small spoonful of cake out (almost as if making butterfly buns), put the raspberry jam in then replaced the cake, which looked a bit messy but it doesn’t really matter because you ice over it anyway!

– To make the icing, first place the butter, milk, vanilla and half the icing sugar in a bowl and beat with an electric whisk until smooth, before gradually adding the rest of the icing sugar and beating well for about 5 minutes (yes, this is basically making buttercream!)

– Next, melt the white chocolate and leave to cool for a couple of minutes, before adding to the buttercream along with the cream. Beat until well combined and smooth.

– Ice each cupcake, using a palette knife, and top each with a raspberry!

Because of the jam inside, these will only keep for a few days before they start going a bit soggy, but in my house this wasn’t a problem as they were all eaten before then!

Yummy spiced fudge-y blondies!

As you can tell from the title, I wasn’t quite sure what to call these. What I am sure about, though, is that they are one of the best – if not the best – thing we have ever baked, and really easy as well! They taste a bit of butterscotch, and the spices – especially the cardamom – really come through. Yummy! The recipe comes from Edd Kimber’s ‘The Boy Who Bakes’, and he calls them ‘Speculaas blondies’, but I hadn’t heard of speculaas, which are apparently a Belgian biscuit with the same spice combination. I’m not entirely sure what the difference is between brownies and blondies, either – I think it’s that blondies use lighter coloured sugar…? Anyway these were delicious: incredibly rich, almost like eating sweets, so we cut them into quite small squares (but they got eaten very quickly!) As you can see from the photos, it rose in the oven and then fell in the middle as it cooled which gave it a yummy chewy crust!

Ingredients:

225g butter

1 teaspoon ground ginger

A quarter teaspoon grated nutmeg

A quarter teaspoon ground cloves

An eighth of a teaspoon ground cardamom pods – I used the seeds of about 4 pods, crushed in a pestle and mortar

400g light brown sugar

2 eggs

250g plain flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

80g chocolate (dark or milk)

 

– Preheat the oven to 180c and grease and line a 23 x 33 cm baking tin (ours was actually more like 20 x 28 cm!). Make sure the greaseproof paper sticks up over the sides in case it rises too much, and to make it easier to remove.

– Melt the butter in a saucepan, then add the spices and cook for a couple of minutes. Add the butter and cook for five minutes, stirring all the time.

– Take the pan off the heat and leave it to cool for 5 minutes.

– Add the eggs – as the mixture is still hot they might start cooking straight away so we whisked them beforehand and then whisked the mixture quite quickly as we added them.

– Fold in the flour until just combined (don’t mix it too much) then stir in the chocolate. We added it at the same time as the flour by mistake, so it all melted into the mixture!

– Bake for around 30 minutes until the edges look just cooked.

– Leave to cool in the tin before cutting into squares – the original recipe says to leave it overnight but we just couldn’t wait that long so cut the first pieces when it was still a bit warm…!

Chocolate orange loaf cake!

I came across this in Nigella Lawson’s ‘Kitchen’ a week or so ago and I knew it had to be made as chocolate and orange is one of my favourite combinations. I don’t exactly have the best track record with loaf cakes, though: I have tried, twice, to bake a chocolate loaf cake, and never managed to persuade it to cook through – the first time was a major disaster, partly because the tin was too small (oops!) and we ended up eating it as chocolate pudding instead! The second time was a lot better but still more than a little gooey inside. It was third time lucky though, as this one came out well, with just enough gooey-ness to be nice. It’s not quite as rich as most of Nigella’s recipes tend to be, probably because it uses cocoa rather than actual chocolate, and the sweet toffee-ness of the muscovado sugar and the syrup really comes through – if I make it again I might experiment with using some real chocolate (and maybe replacing some of the muscovado sugar with something a little lighter), but this was yummy nonetheless, and also kept really well.

Ingredients:

150g soft butter or margarine

2 tablespoons golden syrup

175g dark muscovado sugar

150g plain flour

Half a teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

25g cocoa powder

2 eggs

Zest of 2 oranges and juice of one

– Preheat the oven to 170c and line and grease a 2 lb loaf tin (this is 18.5 x 11.5 x 9 cms).

– Cream the butter, sugar and syrup. This takes a while as the muscovado sugar tends to be lumpy, and even when I was done there were still a few small lumps.

– Mix the flour, bicarb and cocoa together, and sift them (or sift them as you add them). Add a tablespoon of the flour mix to the creamed mix and beat in.

– Add one egg, then a couple more spoonfuls of the flour, then the other egg, beating after each. Gradually beat in the rest of the flour.

– Finally, beat in the orange zest and then gradually add the juice.

– Pour into the tin and bake for around 45 minutes, until it is just coming away from the edges of the tin but still a little gooey inside.