Cupcakes in Krakow!

Long time, no blog! I’ve been traveling: first to France with my family, then to Krakow and Budapest with some friends from uni. We came across a lovely bakery in Krakow, almost next to where we were staying, which had some of the cutest and yummiest cupcakes I’ve ever had, and have definitely given me some inspiration for new flavours! Normally I’m not a fan of bought cupcakes – they seem to have too much sickly sweet icing and a fairly flavourless cake underneath. These were great, though: so good we went two days in a row! The first time I had chocolate covered strawberry cupcake, and the second time chocolate and peanut butter cupcake (I’m one of those people who will almost always choose a chocolate option, as the posts on here probably give away!). They were the cutest things, and for once were just as good as they looked! So I’m all inspired to bake some new cupcake flavour combinations when I get home – unfortunately I have less than a week at home before I go to Spain to start my year abroad so cupcake baking may take a back seat!

(The bakery in question was Cupcake Corner – the website gives some idea of the range of flavours they have – I quite fancy making black forest and brownie obsession as well… or just going back to Krakow to try them there…)

Grandma’s chocolate cake!

A couple of weeks ago we visited our grandparents, and while we were there we made this cake with my grandma, which is the same one she often makes when we visit. She’s a fabulous cook and often greets us with baked goods when we arrive, and this is one of our favourites: it’s chocolate cake (from a Marguerite Patten recipe in a 1970s recipe book!) filled with marzipan and iced with chocolate buttercream. In 80-something years of baking this is the best recipe she’s found, which is a pretty high recommendation! The marzipan filling isn’t in the recipe, and I don’t think I’ve ever come across marzipan in a chocolate cake anywhere else – it’s apparently the way her mother used to make chocolate cake, so I suppose it’s something of a family tradition!

Ingredients:

4oz margarine (110 g)

4oz sugar (caster/granulated) (110g)

1 tablespoon golden syrup, measured carefully because too much will make the cake sink in the middle

A few drops of vanilla essence

5oz self-raising flour (140g)

1oz cocoa (or 1 1/2 oz chocolate powder) (30g)

2 eggs

A little milk

– Preheat oven to 190c and grease and line a 7-inch cake tin.

– Cream together the margarine, sugar, vanilla essence and syrup.

– In separate bowls, sieve together the dry ingredients, and beat the eggs.

– Add the eggs and the flour mixture alternately to the creamed mixture, beating them in thoroughly.

– Add enough milk to make the mixture soft.

– Bake for 30 minutes (the original recipe says 1 and a quarter hours, but it would certainly have burnt, and probably caught fire, by then!)

To fill and ice:

200g marzipan

2-3 tbsp jam (strawberry or raspberry)

50g butter

200g icing sugar, sifted

1 dessertspoon cocoa mixed with a little boiling water (as little as possible)

– When the cake is cool, cut it in half horizontally.

– Roll out the marzipan into a circle the same size as the cake.

– Spread a thick layer of jam onto one half, then place the marzipan on top. Spread a little jam onto the bottom of the other half (so it sticks) and place on top of the marzipan.

– Make the buttercream icing by beating the butter and cocoa with a little icing sugar, gradually adding icing sugar until you have a thick icing. When I asked grandma how she made the icing, she said ‘well you just make buttercream’, so the quantities I’ve given are what I ended up using (the trick of dissolving cocoa in water is hers, though, and makes the icing runnier which is why it might look like a lot of icing sugar!)

– Ice the top and sides of the cake.

While we were staying with them, I also found grandma’s early edition BeRo book (which I wrote about here). I’m not sure exactly when it’s from, but there’s probably a fair chance it’s older than my mum, and it’s definitely well used:

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!