My baking has declined massively over the past few years. The almost weekly bakes of my early twenties have reduced to making cake for my colleagues on my birthday, plus a handful of ad hoc cakes. This year I wasn’t feeling massively inspired. After looking through my ‘recipes’ Pinterest boards and rejecting most of the items, I settled on the Ultimate Vanilla cupcakes from the Cupcake Project, which I was super into about five years ago. I absolutely love their Ultimate Chocolate cupcakes.
Because the batter is very liquid, the sugar dissolved too quickly and did not produce the little neon flecks I had hoped for amongst the black-speckled vanilla cake. I also used coconut oil instead of vegetable, which was fine apart from the fact that I didn’t melt it fully. I knew the batter was too lumpy, but I couldn’t be bothered to get out my hand blender and blitz it. Mistake.
Overall, I probably would give these cupcakes a second chance. While I liked the Ultimate Vanilla Frosting (basically buttercream) from the same site, I don’t think it paired especially well with the UV cupcake. It’s just sweet on sweet. I think you need a bit of a contrasting flavour in there for balance.
My friend Anna gave me some very exciting National Trust spreads for my birthday, and I can see these being incorporated into bakes soon. If only to stop me from eating both jars by the spoonful.
I spotted this recipe on the Instagram feed of a yoga studio I frequented when I lived in west London. I was in the throes of the ‘new year, new you’ thing, so I decided to make it. Here’s how it turned out.
To be honest I don’t think I’d make this again unless I was baking for someone with specific dietary requirements. While it’s perfectly nice, it’s still quite high in calories, and I prefer my sweets to be a bit naughtier than this. If I did bake this recipe again, I would probably throw in some chopped pecans or walnuts to add to the texture.
There’s nothing that makes you feel warm towards your colleagues like going on holiday for an extended period! Since I’m about to go away, I decided to bake for the last team meeting of the year, and I’ve had these chocolate and cream cheese cupcakes pinned for a while. I believe the non-PC term for these is black bottom cakes, but I decided against mentioning that in the office.
The recipe is available here. I did enjoy these cupcakes, but I found the eggless chocolate sponge a little dry and uninspiring. I DID like how easy it was to have two contrasting flavours and textures- much easier than faffing around with frosting. The little pops from the chocolate chips were lovely too. If I made these again, I would probably swap out another recipe (maybe the ultimate chocolate cupcake?) for the bottom part. However, if you’re after a quick recipe using mostly things that will always be in the store cupboard, this is a good’un.
I had enough batter for 24 mini cupcakes and four or five full-sized ones.
We who run according to the academic calendar are limping towards the end of the year with relief and exhaustion in equal measure. This means a few celebrations are in order, and I decided to bake for my team. I wanted a fairly simple recipe and decided on muffins. I had a chocolate and cream cheese recipe that I’ve had pinned for a while in mind, but then my uncle requested blueberry and I decided to go with that.
I’ve never made blueberry muffins before so I just googled a recipe and this one was very well reviewed. I made no changes except being very generous with the fruit. I used £5 of blueberries in 14 muffins. That’s the equivalent of nearly $1! I think it would also be wonderful with fresh blackberries.
I found the sponge a little dry. Although it was hard to notice because of the juicy fruit, I might try a recipe with buttermilk next time.
I should have filled the liners up more (I got three extra cupcakes from the mix) but I was scared they would overflow. I needn’t have worried.
I choose to believe it was the delicate scent of freshly baked muffins that enticed an exotic visitor to join our party.
I found the recipe for this cake ages ago on Pinterest, and decided to have it as my birthday cake this year. Honestly, this was the most stressful baking experience I’ve had in ages. So many things went wrong and the cake ended up looking a mess. Here is a picture I managed to snap before I mostly destroyed the cake trying to transfer it off the baking parchment. However, this experience was also a reminder of how rubbish it is to be a perfectionist. Everyone in the office loved the cake.
I rediscovered the awesome combination of caramel, chocolate and pecans, kicked up a notch by salting the caramel. Next time I bake, I will most likely make salty turtle cupcakes or brownies.
Once again this post will be various process pictures. Hopefully I’ll have a better baking experience soon.
- 2cups (280g) plain flour
- 1.5cups ( 340g) sugar
- 1/2cup (60g) cocoa powder
- 1/2 cup (140g) melted butter
- 1 cup (250g) buttermilk
- 1 egg
- 1tbsp baking soda
- 1tsp salt
- 1 cup fresh coffee
- 1 cup (220g) sugar
- 1 cup (250ml) whole milk
- 6 tbsp (90g) butter
- 12oz (350g) dark chocolate
- 1-2 tsp hot coffee (optional)
- 1 1/2 pecan halves
- 1 cup sugar
- 6 tablespoons butter, salted
- 1/2 cup double (heavy) cream
- Extra salt to taste
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Butter bottom and sides of three 8- or 9-inch cake pans and line bottom of each pan with parchment paper. Butter the paper; dust pans with unsweetened cocoa powder and set pans aside.
In a small bowl, stir together egg, buttermilk and oil
In a large bowl, stir together flour, sugar, 1/2 cup cocoa powder, baking soda and salt.
Slowly add buttermilk mixture to flour mixture, beating until combined.
Gradually beat in coffee
Divide batter evenly between prepared pans; layers will appear shallow.
Bake until a toothpick inserted near the centre comes out clean, about 22 to 25 minutes. Remove towire racks for 10 minutes. Loosen sides from pans, then invert cakes on racks. Remove cakes from pans. Peel off paper and cool completely.
I’ve made caramel twice recently and it has come out slightly greasy, but still tasty. I will look for a new recipe. I used the one from Sally’s Baking Addiction.
In a medium saucepan, combine sugar and milk. Add butter. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Add chocolate pieces. Using a wire whisk, stir until smooth. If frosting is too thick or grainy, stir in 1 to 2 teaspoons freshly brewed coffee. If necessary, let frosting stand for several minutes before using.
I forgot to toast the pecans, which definitely makes a difference.
This post is reminding me that perfectionism spoils my enjoyment of my cooking as well as my making. This cake tastes fine. Just because it doesn’t look like something that costs £4 a slice shouldn’t diminish that.
I finally got the chance to do my first from-scratch bake of the year, and decided to make these brownies with a cherry cheesecake topping. I spent some time on Pinterest last year looking for recipes to use up the 400g glace cherries I inherited from my old housemate. This was the recipe I settled on.
I think these brownies were really tasty, though I think the balance is a little off. I would have preferred slightly less brownie and slightly more of the baked cream cheese topping. It’s so good. Maybe if I made these again I would try and do three quarters of the stated amounts for the brownies. It would probably be safe to freeze some of the batter for future midwinter sugar cravings. I liked how simple the brownie recipe was, though I do think other brownies I have made in the past were nicer.
I made no changes to the recipe as stated except improvising my own ‘cherry pie filling’
- 200g glace cherries* **
- Two tinned apricots, or dried apricots that you have soaked until soft
- Lemon juice (to taste)
- Red food colouring (optional)
*I think this would be nicer using tinned or frozen cherries, but I had glace cherries on hand so that’s what I used
**Eagle-eyed readers will notice that I had 400g cherries but specify only 200g here. I did use all 400g cherries but it made too much cherry sauce
Combine all ingredients in a food processor until you have a thick sauce consistency. Add the lemon juice to taste. If you do use tinned or frozen cherries, taste and add sugar if needed. The sauce should be sweet, but balanced. Add a teaspoon of water at a time if your ingredients are not mixing well.
Check out this brownie cheesecake GIF.
I’ve had my eye on the recipe for these delicious pecan and cinnamon cupcakes for a while. Unfortunately I didn’t read the recipe through before embarking as it is more time-consuming than most cupcake recipes, but the result is a very light and fluffy cupcake that is delicately spiced with an occasional pleasing crunch of pecan. Right up my alley. I made them with buttercream frosting but I think they would be even nicer with cream cheese frosting- a little tang rather than just additional sweetness. I thought I would spend a little bit of time on the decoration for once.
With the quantities given below, I got 24 mini cupcakes and six full sized ones. So I reckon 18 full sized cupcakes.
- 50g (1/2 cup) pecans
- 190g (3/4 cup) butter, at room temperature
- 215g (1 1/4 cups) caster sugar
- 3 large eggs- these will be separated
- 175g (1 1/4 cups) plain flour
- 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/4tsp salt (1/2 tsp if you use unsalted butter)
- 1/2tsp freshly grated nutmeg
- 1/4tsp ground cinnamon
- 120ml (1/2 cup) whole milk
- 1tsp vanilla extract
For the frosting
- 60g (1/4 cup) butter, at room temperature
- 400g (2 1/2 cups) icing sugar
- 1/2tsp vanilla extract
- 120ml (1/2 cup) double cream
- 4tbsp maple syrup
- Yellow food colouring
1. Preheat oven to 180C/350F. Line an 18 hole muffin pan with paper cases
2. Spread the pecans on a baking sheet and toast in the oven for about 6mins, until they are just beginning to brown at the edges. Allow to cool, then crush in a pestle and mortar.
3. In a large bowl or electric mixer, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy (7-10mins).
4. Add the yolks one at a time, mixing until incorporated.
5. Combine flour, baking powder, salt and nutmeg in a mixing bowl, or the bowl of your scale. In a separate jug, combine milk and vanilla.
6. Add the dry ingredients to the creamed sugar and butter in three parts, alternating with the milk mixture. With each addition, scrape down the sides of the bowl to ensure an even batter. Remember to begin and end with the dry ingredients.
7. Stir in the crushed pecans.
8. In a spotlessly clean bowl, whisk the egg whites until stiff.
9. Gently fold the egg white into the batter, in three parts.
10. Divide the batter between the paper cases, filling them three quarters.
11. Bake in the preheated oven for about 15mins, until just browning and passing the toothpick test.
12. Allow to cool in the pan for a couple of minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
Meanwhile, make the frosting.
1. In a medium bowl, beat the butter until soft.
2. Add sugar, vanilla, cream and maple syrup. Beat until smooth and creamy.
3. Put about a quarter of the frosting into a small separate bowl. Add food colouring until you get a really vivid yolk colour.
4. Once the cupcakes are totally cold, spread evenly with the white frosting using a palette knife or offset spatula. Drop about a teaspoon of the yellow frosting on top, a little to one side, for the yolk.