Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Chocolate Cupcakes with Cookies & Cream Icing

By now you'll know that I like to keep things simple. (A far cry from my early baking days when I'd make door-stopper muffins that contained every ingredient known to man!)

So I use the same recipe over and over, with minor variations, if I know that it's good and easy.

For this one, I've used my go-to chocolate cupcakes (you only need one bowl - can it get any easier ?!  Well, yes ... box-mix!); topped with cream cheese icing that has a delicious addition: crumbed Oreos.

 And then you can give it all a fancy-smancy name like Chocolate Cupcakes with Cookies&Cream Icing 😋

Chocolate Cupcakes
adapted from the Hershey's chocolate cake recipe. 

Preheat the oven to 180'C
Prepare 2x 12 hole muffin trays with cupcake cases. (Plus an extra 6 if you aren't using larger "American"-style muffin cases) 

320g cake flour
400g caster sugar
80g unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt 
180ml vegetable oil
250ml buttermilk
2 eggs, lightly beaten
250ml boiling water 
1tsp vanilla extract

Sift together all the dry ingredients. Whisk to combine. 
Make a well in the centre, and pour in the eggs, buttermilk, oil and vanilla. 
Mix well. 
Add the boiling water. Mix until combined.  

Pour the batter into the prepared cupcake cases.
Bake at 180'C for approx 20min, or until a skewer inserted comes out with a few moist crumbs clinging to it. 
Remove cupcakes from muffin trays and cool. 

Cookies & Cream Icing
Recipe by Tea, Cake & Create

100g butter,  at room temperature
80g sifted icing sugar
250g cream cheese, chilled 
1 tsp vanilla extract
50g finely crushed Oreo biscuits

Beat together the butter and icing sugar, until smooth and creamy. 
Beat in the cream cheese and vanilla. 
Stir in the Oreo crumbs
Pipe onto the cooled cupcakes.

Top with a mini Oreo or sprinkle with crushed Oreos.

You may need to double the icing ingredient quantities if you want to pipe large swirls on all the cupcakes. 
I usually freeze half the batch of cupcakes and ice the rest. Yes, these chocolate cupcakes freeze well, and so does the icing (just freeze the two separately, though ... don't freeze the iced cupcakes in the unlikely event of any leftovers!)

Happy decorating!


Thursday, 11 May 2017

(Another) Unicorn Cake

Jeez, my life...
I had set aside an afternoon to finish the details on my niece's birthday cake (she's an avid horse rider and star show-jumper in-the-making, but I figured: horses/ unicorns ... I'd personally choose the unicorn...!).
My thinking had initially been a cotton candy mane. But it turns out, cotton candy doesn't like being exposed to air - even dry, autumn air.
So plan B was buttercream rosettes.

And then I got called back to theatre for an emergency (back 'cos I'd already been there the whole morning).
So, to plan C...
A few twists of modelling chocolate/fondant; flowers and stars (made the previous day, thankfully) and the unicorn was done.

And no - I didn't have time to take photo's along the way. The collage is a mock-up I did later,  just for you.

All in a days work 😅

Happy decorating!


Saturday, 6 May 2017

Cupcake Cookies

It's a learning curve, I tell people that come to my classes. 
Don't expect to get it perfect the first time, I say. 
We're not pursuing perfection - that's something reserved for astronautical engineers and neurosurgeons. 

It's just cake. If you mess up, eat the evidence. 

Or you could just decorate on top of the hole your finger made in the drying icing  (see the heart on that cupcake, bottom row? Yes, something like that...)  No-one will know. 

These were cupcake cookies I made a few years ago. I thought they were great at the time...


                                           I 'd like to think that I've improved a bit since then...
 Learning curve. I tell you.  Steep learning curve! 

So take every opportunity to practice. 

This batch of cupcake cookies is one I did now for my niece's birthday. 
(It's great that family gives you the opportunity to practice your skills for free!)


Happy decorating!


Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Zucchini Cake

If you don't like mixing your greens and sweets, this one probably isn't for you.
But let me try twist your arm - you just don't know what you're missing!

I have been wanting to make a zucchini cake for a very long time now.
And this one definitely gets the green-light  😋

It's very similar to carrot cake - you actually don't taste the zucchini.
You get lovely flecks of green throughout the cake, though; and if you add pistachios, they give a great extra dimension of flavour.
(I'd say, go with the pistachios unless you have a particular aversion to them).
And, like carrot cake,  it pairs beautifully with cream cheese icing.

I also made the batter into muffins, and popped them into my kids' lunch boxes - no returns, and no questions about why there were green flecks in them, either!

FYI: Zucchini = baby marrow = courgette

Zucchini Cake
Recipe adapted from Simplyrecipes.com

Preheat the oven to 180'C
Grease and line 3 x 7inch round baking pans *(or 2 x 8inch)

360g cake flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda (bicarbonate of soda)
1tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cardamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
250g caster sugar
3 large eggs
250ml vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
475g finely grated zucchini  (squeeze out excess moisture if necessary), no need to peel.
100g chopped pistachios (optional/ substitute with pecans)


Sift the flour, spices, salt and raising agents together; set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the sugar and eggs together until pale and fluffy.
Beat in the vanilla extract and oil.

With the mixer on low speed, stir in the sifted dry ingredients, followed by the zucchini and pistachios, if using.

Divide the mixture equally between the baking pans.
Bake at 180'C for approx 30min or until the centre of the cake springs back when touched.
*Baking time depends on the size and number of baking pans used.
 If baking as muffins, 20 minutes should be sufficient.

For icing a cake you'll need a double batch of cream cheese icing - recipe here .
If you're going to just fill between layers, though, a single batch should be sufficient.

And I had this idea that a zucchini cake should be decorated with a succulent ... so there it is!

Happy baking!


Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Unicorn Eggs

I read a post on Instagram the other day that suggested the unicorn craze should end now.
Are we ready for that?!
Not me...
Especially not with a unicorn cupcake class up next.
And I fully intend to add a unicorn cookie class onto the schedule, too.
So, no we have not had enough of unicorns. Yet!

These decorated eggs were inspired by @blogali's non-edible ones (found on Instagram).

These ones are all edible, though - candy eggs with modelling chocolate/ fondant blend decorations.

So quickly grab some of your kids' left-over Easter stash, and get decorating before the eggs (and the craze!) are gone.

Happy decorating!


Sunday, 23 April 2017

(Flat) Macarons

That's me. I'm done.
Overcooked in fact.
Two classes, 6 emergency cases at the hospital, and husband-less for the weekend.

He's gone cycling in the scenic Eastern Cape. Lovely. 

The last time he went away over a weekend, he took the kids with him. Better.
I had my Friday all laid out: set-up for the Saturday class, bake for tea. Then... R.E.L.A.X

I'd just set these unbaked macarons out, when I got a call to get to the hospital for an emergency.
Fine, I thought. An hour to develop a shell would be perfect, I thought.
But the case took three.
Ping ping ping!

So this is what macarons look like when they've had an extended resting time.
A little tired. A lot flat. And tending to fall apart more than normal.
(Oh. That's me, again.)

Thankfully, though, even if macarons don't look their best, they always taste great. 
These were filled with chocolate mint icing. And I used my standard macaron recipe
That's a very old post, with some pretty un-pretty pictures. I'll get round to fixing it sometime. But right now I have to deal with the ping. Time to switch off. 

Happy baking ... I'll be resting!


Friday, 14 April 2017

Speckled Bunnies Easter Cookies

What I didn't tell you when I wrote about selecting colours for Easter cookies  was that I had a completely different palette in mind for this year. 
I was about to start mixing up pale blue, grey and yellow icing when I had a last-minute rethink. 
I'd used that pretty combination here - too long ago! I really want to use it again.  
But I also really really wanted to speckle this batch of cookies. And brown speckles seemed better suited to the colours I finally went with. 

Here's how the speckled bunny cookie was made:

Print out a template. Lay acetate over it. Secure in place on a cookie tray using magnets/ tape. 

Give the cookie tray a jiggle or two to settle the icing and disperse bubbles. Allow to dry. 

Use a stiff bristled paintbrush dipped in a mixture of brown and white gel colours, and clear alcohol. 
Run your finger over the bristles to disperse droplets over the bunnies to create the speckles. 

Once the transfers are completely dry, lift them off the acetate (they should come away easy, but use a palette knife if necessary). If you're attaching the transfer to a dried cookie, use royal icing as the glue. 

And of course, every bunny needs a tail!
Use stiff icing with a closed star tip (eg. an Ateco 28) to pipe a pretty rosette. 

And that's the whole tail  tale 

Happy Easter decorating!