Thursday, 17 December 2009

Christmas cupcakes: Part 2

Christmas doesn't have to mean expensive presents, surely cupcakes make a much sweeter gesture than a store voucher? Why not make somebody their favourite flavour and adorn with their favourite sweets?

My friends and i had a no present rule for the adults, but i couldn't resist making them cupcakes instead. These chocolate on chocolate cupcakes featured above were for my lovely sister-in-law and were topped with her favourite chocolate bars; double decker, smarties and mars bar as well as some white chocolate drops and colourful stars.

Because the chocolate and peppermint cupcakes went down so well last week, i decided to again use the Primrose chocolate cupcake recipe for the sponge. They turned out just as well this time, although i now wish i'd added the salt after watching Jamie's Family Christmas last night. (Apparently salt helps enhance the chocolate flavour.)

By this point i'd ran out of Green & Blacks dark chocolate (85% cocoa) so i decided to use their cocoa powder for the chocolate buttercream. For this i (sort of) followed Hummingbird's frosting recipe, but knowing the specified 300g of icing sugar would make for a runny mess, i instead used 450g which worked out pretty well.

So go on guys, pick any flavour and topping and make someone's day with a christmas cupcake!

Merry Christmas Baking! xxx

Monday, 14 December 2009

Christmas cupcakes: Part 1

Apologies for the lack of blogging lately, i've been doing lots of Christmas baking (Christmas puddings, gingerbread men etc) so the cupcakes were a bit neglected!

Our friends invited us to Christmas lunch this weekend and to help out i made the Christmas pudding and these Primrose Chocolate and Peppermint cupcakes as treats for the guests.

I'm probably over using the Primrose book of late, but i needed to have the guarantee that the recipe would work (sorry Hummingbird!)

The base of the cupcakes is a basic chocolate sponge, but this is the first time i've needed to use real dark chocolate rather than cocoa powder. Definately take Primrose up on their advice to use dark chocolate with 75% or more cocoa, i chose Green & Black's dark chocolate with 85% cocoa and boy did it make all the difference! The cupcakes turned out rich and moist, which i'm sure is down to the use of real dark chocolate.

The peppermint buttercream was just a basic buttercream with the addition of a subtle dose of peppermint essence. My advice would be to make up the buttercream first and then add the peppermint after and taste until you get the desired amount. For topping i bought some cheap candy canes from Tesco and crushed them up with a rolling pin.

These cupcakes went down really well with my friends and they were definately my favourites so far. The sponge requires slightly more effort than other versions of chocolate cupcakes, but its definately worth the extra time.

Baking Housewife Rating: 9/10

Friday, 27 November 2009

Vanilla layer cake for the inlaws

Ok so this is slightly off topic, but i had to post about how amazing Primrose's vanilla layer cake is...can they do no wrong??

I had to do an emergency bake as i've been away all week and hubby's parents are visiting this weekend. Despite my rickety electric-hand whisk braking half way through, the recipe the sponge turned about amazingly light and moist.

Other victoria sponge recipes i've tried in the past have been disappointing, but i think the addition of cornflour and baking powder made the cake a winner.

I'd recommend trying this recipe in an emergency situation as you will certainly have all the ingredients in your store cupboard.

Happy baking! x

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Primrose Marmalade and Pecan cupcakes

For a second week running hub's selected this week's bake and so for a second week running i have baked cupcakes with ingredients i don't like. Whilst this in indeed good for my waist line, my opinion of the marmalade & pecan cupcakes from Primrose's cookbook may be a little skewed.

The blurb states that these are great for a post Christmas treat as they are a tad healthier than the traditional frosting heavy cupcakes. For me, part of the fun of a cupcake is that its sinful, there is absolutely no point in trying to make it healthy!

So firstly the sponge, which was pretty dry despite lashings of corn oil, i'm putting this down to the pecans. These really did taste like muffins rather than cupcakes and hubby ended up eating them for breakfast with his morning coffee.

There isn't much to say about the 'icing' which was hot marmalade except read the instructions carefully as you are supposed to spread the marmalade whilst the cupcakes are still hot. I left them to cool as usual and i'm sure the cupcakes may have been a little bit more moist had i spread the marmalade right away.

Considering my prejudice to marmalade i'd give these cupcakes 6/10, my marmalade loving hubby says 8/10.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Hummingbird's ginger cupcakes

This week i decided on ginger, partly because i thought the warming spice would take the edge off of the miserable rainy weather and mainly because of hubby's insistence. After initial dragging of feet from me, i left it up to the supermarket gods, if stem ginger was stocked in Sainsbury's i'd make them and dammit it was!

I chose Hummingbird's to see if they were any better than the banana and chocolate recipe, but oh Hummingbird! I'm beginning to wonder if you have deliberately altered recipes?Yet again the amount of ingredients in both the sponge and buttercream were questionable.

Firstly if you do make these cupcakes please avoid using all 200g of stem ginger, it is far far too much and the ginger ended up sinking to the bottom which caused the sponge to break in half. I'd suggest using around half the amount, but do amend according to your preference to ginger.

Next i'd have to call into question the ginger syrup made to put on the cupcakes before the buttercream. It seems a tad unneccessary and didn't really make an impact once i'd added the frosting. I'd recommend using either the syrup or the buttercream and i'm sure the leftover stem ginger would have been better used as part of the frosting.

I did enjoy the lemon and ginger combination of the frosting, but it seemed a slight waste of ingredients to use fresh ginger and milk rather than the stem ginger syrup. I'd suggest less butter and milk, or more icing sugar depending on your frosting style as if you did follow the recipe exactly you'd end up with a runny mess.

Unfortunatley these Hummingbird cupcakes score a rather lowly 4/10.

Monday, 9 November 2009

Primrose Carrot Cupcakes with Orange cream cheese frosting

Wow! who'd have thought the humble carrot could be transformed into such amazing cupcakes? Carrot cupcakes with cream cheese icing almost sounds like something you'd choose if you were (unsuccessfully) dieting and I had been reluctant to attempt Primrose's carrot cupcakes, but these little guys have turned into my favourite recipe to date.

The sponge was moist, which i'm sure was down to the use of corn oil and of course the carrots! I also loved the use of raisins, orange zest and cinnamon. The recipe called for the sponge to be baked at 180c for 25 minutes, but i went for 170c as mine is a temperamental fan oven. I have absolutely no criticism of this recipe i followed it to the letter and it worked, just make sure you amend timings for your own oven, speaking of which i really must buy an oven thermometer...

Now i really wasn't sure about cream cheese icing, yes i know carrot cake is always made with cream cheese frosting, but i was a tad worried it would turn out um, too cheesy. Again, i was pleasantly suprised and the grated orange zest gave a delicate citrus taste which complimented the sponge perfectly. However, if i were to do the recipe again i would use around 50g more icing sugar as the buttercream was slightly too soft for my preference.

Overall i'd give these cupcakes 9/10, it's a good job they destined for hubby's work or i'd have scoffed the lot already!

Happy Baking xx

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Hummingbird's Banana and Chocolate cupcakes

A couple of quid off The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook in Waitrose was all the excuse i needed to purchase yet another cupcake themed book. The recipes not only include Hummingbird's famous red velvet cupcakes, but a delicious array of cheesecakes, layercakes, muffins and traditional American pies.

But this is a cupcake blog and onto the job in hand i set about choosing this week's cupcake. In the end it was a toss up between the chocolate & banana or marshmallow cupcakes. In an unusually thrifty move i decided to use up the neglected banana's that were slowly browning in the fruit bowl.

Unlike Primrose's recipes, which use a mix of plain and self-raising flour, Hummingbird uses plain with a spoonful of baking powder. This immediately had me worried, as the recipe didn't specify a heaped or level tablespoon, would i be able to get baking powder amount accurate enough?

The recipe also called for a 'pinch of salt' which in my opinion was unnecessary, but this could be because i never salt my food to taste. I also felt that at 120g, there was far too much banana in the mix, which gave the final cupcake a squidgy texture despite an additional 8 minutes baking.

I was unconvinced by the banana sponge and wasn't very confident with the texture. After 23 minutes (the recipe called for 20 mins baking at 170c) the sponge was far too soft and after a further 5 minutes it wasn't much better, although on both occassions there was no raw batter remaining. The plain flour meant the cupcakes didn't rise as much as with other recipes i've used and i was left with a dip in the centre of the sponge.

If i were to bake these cupcakes again i'd use less banana (around 100g) and use self-raising flour, or even a mixture of the two. On a more positive note, the cupcakes did have a lovely caramel smell when they came out of the oven.

The banana cupcakes were topped off with a chocolate buttercream, which is pretty difficult to get wrong! The recipe did make the right consistency of buttercream but there wasn't enough to coat 12 cupcakes and i ended up making more. Instead of 300g of icing sugar its probably worth using 500g and upping the butter, milk and cocoa powder accordingly.

Overall the combination of banana and chocolate was pleasing, but i'd have to give the recipe a pretty average score of 5/10.

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Primrose's Orange Blossom cupcakes

At hubby's request, Primrose Bakery's Orange blossom cupcakes we're next on my baking quest.

As the coconut cupcakes weren't quite cooked at 160c, this time i whacked the temperature up to the 180c for the full 25 minutes. However this time i got the opposite problem at the top of the cupcakes were far too hard! Next time i'll heat the oven to 170c or lower the timings by 5 minutes.

The recipe requires orange blossom for the buttercream, available at all supermarkets according to the book, but not as it happens at the Watford branch of Tesco! Instead i resorted to using 4 tablespoons of freshly squeezed orange juice. I also added 2 tablespoons of boiling water to the buttercream mix as the mixture was far too much like cement for my taste.

The overall combination of orange sponge and buttercream was suprisingly refreshing, although the effect was slightly ruined by the hardness of the sponge which is more an error on my behalf than with the recipe itself!

Overall rating: 7/10

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Coconut Cupcakes from Primrose Bakery Cookbook

With a five month old baby it's rare that i have time to give baking my full attention, but as we we're spending the weekend with hubby's parents it seemed like the ideal opportunity to get cracking with the perfect cupcake quest.

Hubby's lovely mum had bought me Primrose Bakery's new book 'Cupcakes from the Primrose Bakery' and i chose their Coconut sponge with vanilla buttercream icing after requests from the family.

Martha Swift and Lisa Thomas originally started baking cupcakes for children's parties, but their popularity means they are now more used to catering for a-list parties. Which surely makes for a promising start to finding the cupcake mecca?

The coconut and vanilla combination is supposed to resemble coconut ice, but thankfully the end result wasn't too sweet and sickly.

Were they any good?

The sponge recipe required both plain and self raising flour (but no baking powder) which made for a denser cupcake than i'm used to. If i made them again i'd reduce the amount of plain flour to make the sponge a lighter, fluffier texture.

I also found the timings and temperature settings slightly out at 160c for a fan oven for 25 minutes. I really don't think that there needs to be a 20c difference for the fan and it would have been better to raise the temperature up to 180c. As it stood i ended up cooking the cupcakes for an extra 5 minutes.

The vanilla buttercream is probably one of the best variations i've tasted, i've previously just used butter, icing sugar and water which always seems to make for a runny buttercream where extra sugar is needed, but this variation used milk and 500g of icing sugar which made the buttercream exactly the right consistency.

Overall the density of the coconut and the sweetness of the vanilla buttercream made for a yummy combination and the batch was quickly snaffled up over the evening - which is always a good sign!

Baking Housewife Rating: 8/10

Mission: To find the perfect cupcake

How to find the perfect cupcake?

There's a plethora of cupcake recipe books out there, i should know as i have most of them! But over the past year, i've been stuck in something of a cupcake rut, returning to the same trusty chocolate and vanilla sponges every time.

I need a new challenge, so every week, i will be baking my way through the books of all the famous cupcakeries such as Hummingbird, Magnolia and Primrose in search of the perfect recipe.

I also want to find out if the recipes translate in reality, i've been stung by Nigella one too many times and sometimes swear that recipes are deliberately altered. I'll be adding my own amendments and recommendations, which will hopefully act as a useful guide.

The final results will be rated by myself and willing guinea pigs (namely hubby, friends and family) but i would also love to hear how you've found the recipes featured. The top 10 will appear in the cupcake league table.

I deliberately haven't included the ingredients and recipe for the cupcakes as i'm sure this would infringe on copyright laws!

I would love to hear your opinions and you can also follow me on twitter at

Baking Housewife xxx