Sunday, 21 November 2010

Children in Need Cakes for School

Making cupcakes for my children's school's Children in Need event is not something I would usually do. Cupcake making is relatively new to me, and only came about from a day of boredom when I decided all I wanted to do that day was learn to make cupcakes, and it's something I've been having fun doing since then.

I'm not niave about my skills and at this moment in time there was no way I'd even attempt to make something like these from Nicola at Small Things Iced.

I ordered some Pudsey cake toppers from Ebay, and some Pudsey Cake cases from Lakeland.

Pudsey Cake Toppers

Pudsey Fairy Cake Cases

Knowing that 8884 (my name for what I have since discovered is pound cake, or in my cases 1/2 pound cake) yields 12+ muffin sized cakes, I decided to make one batch, since my Pudsey cases were clearly fairy cake sized. I was inform by Shannon (my daughter) that I was expected to make 36 cupcakes. No problem, by judging it right I reckoned on getting 36 fairy cakes out of 8884. The only problem was the toppers I'd ordered were a pack of 24. So I'd make some yellow butter-cream, and found some multi-coloured sprinkles in my cupboard. Pudsey has multi-coloured spots on his bandage, so there's my link in. Only the toppers didn't arrive on time, and actually still haven't arrived as I type (but it is Sunday, so not really expecting them today). But that was ok, I had the sprinkles. Back to the fairy cakes. 8884 yielded 54 fairy cakes!

Fairy Cake Batter

Filled Muffin Pan

Cooked Fairy Cakes

I was happy with them, I had intended to not fill them to the very top anyway, since I wanted space for frosting.

Now the internet is a vast place and I was still searching for the perfect buttercream recipe, and I found this one from kelly75 over on The British Sugarcraft Guild forum.

Cupcake Buttercream

3 Tbsp plain flour
4 fl. oz /120mls milk (semi-skimmed gives the best result, skimmed is fine too!)
4 oz butter (I use unsalted)
4 oz caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

Whisk together the flour and milk and cook in a small saucepan over medium heat until thick. This will only take a few minutes. Sir continuously to prevent the mixture from clumping and do not bring all the way to a boil. When thickened (consistency will be that of thick custard), strain into a small bowl in case any lumps remain, cover with clingfilm and leave to cool completely to room temperature.
When the milk mixture is cool, using the beater attachment (k-beater on a Kenwood, or equivalent), cream the butter and sugar together as you would for a cake. Add in the milk/flour mixture and the flavouring and beat at high speed with an electric mixer for 7 minutes (use the beater attachment, not the whisk), until light and fluffy (don't worry if it curdles initially when you add the milk, it will re-combine!).

So I thought I'd give it a go, doubling it since I had so many to frost. The flour/milk combination looked disgusting, and resembled glue rather than thick custard. However it was beautiful, really smooth and no running colour. Here comes the but, but it was not very thick and I knew before I even started that it's shape wouldn't hold when piped. And it didn't.

Nozzle 30 didn't do the trick

Neither did nozzle 7

Nozzle 320 didn't work either

All Spatula'd

With Sprinkles

So I smoothed the buttercream with a spatula and sprinkled. I think they look cute. Just the right size for young 'uns. I once read that cupcakes were mearly a vehicle for frosting, and these certainly were that.

Tadaa! Pudsey Fairy Cakes

I do want to try this buttercream again, but doubling the sugar, just to see if it's a typo, since most recipes for nuttercream call for 1:2 ratio of butter:sugar. I've been reading about a lot, especially over at Cake Central forums. My frosting is still a bugbear and I'm going to continue in my search for my own 'Go To' frosting recipe. I have my cake one, my never fail 8884, and on this journey will no doubt find a few more.

Stick with me, I'm having a blast!

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Baking in Someone Else's Kitchen

It was my friends birthday last week, and I didn't take her any cakes. So when we were invited to watch the Hayes vs. Harrison boxing on Saturday, I took the opportunity to bake them for her then, since I'm not a fan of boxing anyway.

I took all my own bits and bobs, I'm quite attached to my own things. I did forget my scales, but she had some digital ones which were superior to mine anyway, and I also forgot my brand spanking new cupcake apron.

Never mind.

So I used my basic recipe. I call it 8884. It goes like this.

8oz each of caster sugar, SR flour, butter.
4 small-medium eggs.
1tsp vanilla extract (the kind with the seeds in, not essence).

Makes 12-16 muffin sized cupcakes.

Now in my oven at home these take 28-32 minutes on gas mark 4. I think my oven temperatures are a tad off, since Bake Me I'm Yours: Cup Cake states they should take 18-22 minutes. These are for the 'Not at at little' size, which are muffin case sizes.

My friends oven is one of those electric ones, with a fan. It took a while for me to figure out how to make the darn thing work. What's wrong with turning a knob and pressing the ignition switch? Turn, turn, press, press, nope. Turn, turn, press, press, press. Darn it, there's no gas mark numbers. *Go check Google for what gas mark 4 is in °'s*. Google says it's 180°. Friend's Boyfriend informs me that as it's fan assisted, it cooks higher. I said 'it'll be fine'. Imagine my horror at 13 minutes there's a faint whiff of burning cupcake in the air.

Opening the oven with partly covered eyes, there were my cupcakes, just the wrong side of cooked. After 13 minutes! No cake tester to hand I stuck a sharp knife in, sure enough they were cooked. And the most risen any of my cupcakes had ever been. So I let them cool, and sliced off the tops. Et Voila! Rescued cupcakes.

On to frosting them. 8oz butter, 1lb icing sugar, 1tsp vanilla extract & some pink food colouring. Only the frosting was rubbish. Runny, mottled colour. I wasn't happy with it, but it topped them fine and tasted good.

The cakes themselves were the best I've ever made, so soft and light, like eating whipped air. I really was impressed.

So, I have now decided I need an Oven Thermometer, among my other list of things I want, to check the temperature of my own oven, since it's clearly not cooking at the temperature it should be. (Failing that, one of those fan assisted ovens would be nice).

Friday, 12 November 2010

Martha Stewart's Cupcake Club

I am now officially a member of the Martha Stewart's Cupcake Club.

Each month a recipe from Martha Stewart's Cupcakes
is chosen to be baked. Pictures are posted by the 15th of the month.

November's cupcake was Marshmallow Turkey Cupcakes (P.239), chosen by Rachel at Simple Girl. It's a bit late in the month for me to attempt them I think, however depending on how I feel on Saturday I may go and source the ingredients and actually do them.

December's cupcake is Fruitcakes with Meringue Mushrooms (P.249) chosen by Rebecca at beurrista. I'm really excited about these. I do need to get some nozzles for piping the meringue, something I have never done before. This will also be my first recipe from MSC that I will bake.

I have some cupcakes to bake for my daughter's school Children in Need event next Friday. I'm still deciding whether to attempt to make some Pudsey fondant toppers similar to these from Small Things Iced, or simply decorate them with buttercream.

Monday, 8 November 2010

When is a cupcake not a cupcake?

Yesterday was my 30th birthday. Now my lovely girlfriend bought me 2 giant cupcakes from Asda (with sparklers and fireworks I have to add). I love cake, so I was obviously grateful, but the size of them got me questioning whether they were actually cupcakes or not. So I went and found the definition of a cupcake, from the obvious source of Wikipedia: 'A cupcake (British English: fairy cake; Australian English: patty cake or cup cake) is a small cake designed to serve one person, frequently baked in a small, thin paper or aluminum cup. As with larger cakes, frosting and other cake decorations, such as sprinkles, are common on cupcakes.' So when it serves more than one person, it's no longer a cupcake. Even though it still looks and acts like one. Though does one person eating in it in more than one sitting count, so then it remains a cupcake. The other thing is fairy cakes are those little piddly things my Mum used to make, not the monsters I make. So are mine actually muffins and not cupcakes? I though muffins were cupcakes which hadn't got dressed yet, or were a bit on the ugly side. Is there a size guide somewhere. Well apparently so. According to Bake Me I'm Yours: Cup Cake there are 4 sizes. These are Very Little, Little, Not So Little & Not At All Little. Or petit fours, mini muffin, fairy cake and muffin sizes. Still doesn't really define the actual size. A lot of people argue that cupcakes here in the UK are fairy cakes, and in the US are muffins. So let's see what Martha Stewart says. Well she doesn't define it either, but size to line muffin tins. So what I guess is that a cupcake is actually just a really pretty muffin. It's muffin sized and has frosting, and is usually sweet. Giant cupcakes are huge cakes decorated to look like a cupcake, but not technically an actual cupcake. Still, they taste pretty good.