Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Banana Pecan Cupcakes with Maple Buttercream

It's fast approaching exam time of year, so I have a little MCQ for you:
What's the difference between a cupcake and a muffin?
A. The name?
B. The icing?
C. The ingredients?
D. All of the above?

What do you think?

For me, if they have a pretty swirl of icing I'd be reluctant to call them muffins. But it's more than that.
"Muffin" conjures up a mental and gustatory picture of something chunky and coarse-crumbed - and I've made my fair share of those ; )
Whereas cupcakes are lighter, and finer ... Cinderella's golden carriage vs. the pumpkin...
 : )

So, whether you call these muffins or cupcakes...this is how you make them...

Banana Pecan Muffin/Cupcake

2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 cup chopped pecans
125g butter, melted
3 ripe bananas, mashed
100 ml vanilla or plain yoghurt
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract (I use Vanilla Girl vanilla - so just a few drops)

Preheat oven to 180'C
Line muffin tray with cupcake cases (12-15)

Sift flour, baking powder and cinnamon together. Add sugar. Combine all dry ingredients with a whisk.
Add pecans. Make a well in the middle.
Pour bananas, melted butter, yoghurt, egg and vanilla into the dry ingredients.
Mix until just combined.
Spoon into prepared pans.

Bake at 180'C for 20-22minutes. Remove from muffin pans, and allow to cool.

While the above are baking, start preparing your icing - if you want to liberate them from their muffin-dom, that is!

Maple Buttercream Frosting (adapted from Martha Stewart)

6 large egg yolks
2 cups pure maple syrup ... ok...I used maple flavoured golden syrup. I don't have the real thing : (
350g butter, cubed

In an electric mixer, using the whisk attachment, beat the yolks until light and fluffy (about 5 minutes).

Meanwhile bring the syrup to boil in a medium saucepan over med-high heat. Cook it for about 15 minutes. (If you have a candy thermometer, it should reach 115'C).

With the mixer running, pour the hot syrup slowly down the side of the mixing bowl into the yolks.

Beat until the bowl is only slightly warm to the touch.

Swap over to the paddle attachment, and beat in the butter, one piece at a time.
Continue to beat until the icing is light and fluffy.

Use immediately.

Hope they pass the test!


Sunday, 28 October 2012

Ruffle Cake

Ruffle cakes take a huge amount if icing. Huge. And I'd chosen to use Swiss Meringue Buttercream for this cake. Which was a good idea...and not.
A good idea because it pipes really beautifully and smoothly. A bad idea because when you run out if it with a quarter of the cake still to ice, you can't just whip up another batch in a couple of minutes!

Actually, the SMB was almost a non-starter. I had made it a week before, and frozen it.
 It was defrosting on the kitchen table, when a monkey decided to stroll through our kitchen door (he literally did - on two legs!) My husband when into man-mode and picked up the first thing he could lay his hands on to fling at the monkey. It was the container of SMB!! When I screeched "Don't do that!" he thought I was defending the monkey! Luckily the SMB was still a solid block, so when the lid popped off mid-landing (on the floor, not the monkey) it stayed firmly in the container. Whew!

Okay, so that was the first near-miss. The second was under-estimating how much I'd need for a 2 tier cake. I'd made 2 batches of this recipe. But halfway through the first tier, I was already stressed about how I was going to finish it. I'd gone past the point of no return, though.

So, thank goodness I'd also made some meringue - using the first steps of the SMB recipe - for  mini lemon meringue pies.  It had been sitting in the kitchen for about an hour, but  gracefully accepted the addition of butter, and allowed me to finish icing the cake - just. So, please don't look too closely at the picture!

I used two different ruffle techniques - both using an Ateco 104 petal tip. You can find videos for many different ruffling techniques on YouTube. Here are a few:

Will I  do it again: Absolutely! I love the ruffles, and I love the ombre look. Next time though - I will have much more icing ready and on standby. And I'll colour it pink. Pink. And pink! My daughter will be delighted : )

Chloe's birthday party treats table


Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Lemon Cookie Dough

This is another post that I had planned to write something else, but time seems to be in such short supply this week that I am just going to share something short and - it goes without saying - sweet : )

A few weeks ago I posted the cookie recipe that I am using at the moment, and I had a few flavour suggestions at the end. So, I used one of those suggestions myself. (What do they say about advice? Don't give it unless you're prepared to take it? Does anyone say that, or have I just completely made that up?!?)
...Anyway: Lemon zest and this cookie dough. Great combination!

Simply add the zest of 2 lemons to this recipe. If I'd had any lemon essence, I would have used it, too. So I'll be adding that to my shopping list.

I made this particular batch of cookie dough not for cookies, but to make bases for mini lemon meringues pies.

 (The recipe produces  much more dough than needed for this project, so the rest has gone in the freezer to be used another time for cookies or maybe a cheesecake base.)

So those have now been baked, and will be frozen until stage two.
I'll share the finished product, pictures and full recipe when they're done.

But, now I'm thinking of flavour combinations...what about some lavender and lemon cookies? It'll taste like Spring! (Beautiful blossoming Spring - not the muddy, mouldy Spring of reality!) 
So, when this rain finally stops, and I can venture out into the garden again to harvest some lavender flowers, I think I might just give that a try... 

Happy baking!


Sunday, 21 October 2012

Cloudy with Rain...

I've just read that "moisture is the enemy of sugar" .
Royal icing = sugar . Rain = 100% humidity = moisture. Oh, boy. It's going to be a rough week.

When I first started decorating cookies with RI, it was also a very humid time of year. I thought my bad results were lack of skill and experience. Well, they were ; )
But the high humidity really didn't help. So, if you are battling with icing at the moment, take heart - both your skill and the weather will improve : )

Today, I took all the demo cookies for Friday's Scary Cookies class out the freezer (iced cookies supposedly freeze well..clearly, they just don't defrost that well!) Instant major condensation. Cookies       that had originally dried well, are now dull, pitted and ugly : (



I've written about it before, but it is all that I can really think of at the moment...so here we go again.

What to do to try combat the effects of humidity on royal icing:

Use a good recipe for royal icing, one that uses meringue powder (Actiwhite, here in SA) and some cream of tartar for stability.

Bake your biscuits slightly longer, to dry them out more. And if they soften, place them in a warm oven again before decorating to crisp them up (allow them to cool completely before icing, though!)

Store the cool cookies in airtight containers, between layers of absorbant paper towel.

When you decorate, do so in an air-conditioned room, if you have one (I ... don't....!)

Dry the iced biscuit in an air conditioned room (!), or use a fan - we have lots of those, but no tables tall enough to reach just below the ceiling ; )
Ok, I do use the ceiling fans, but I more directed breeze (not a gale!) would be better.

You can also try using a heat lamp (but, beware: high heat has its own perils) or putting the biscuits into the oven with just the fan and light on, and the door ajar.

Or just wave your magic wand...

Perhaps I should have made Fairy Godmother cookies instead of witches...


Thursday, 18 October 2012

A Halloween How-To: Fondant Ghost

I was planning on doing a tutorial on embossing a lace design onto fondant ...but time was in short supply, so I thought I would do something really quick and easy instead. I hope you don't mind.

I've really enjoyed doing all the Halloween cupcakes. They are just so simple and sweet. Which is exactly what you I need, sometimes : )

My favourite topper is the pumpkin, but there's a dozen tut's on fondant pumpkins out there, so I'll show you a ghost, instead.

So, this is what you'll need:
 a small chocolate - something like a mini Bar-One or Chomp.
 a small ball of white fondant/ plastic icing.
 a tiny amount of black fondant
 a small roller
 corn flour for dusting
 tylose glue... but even water will do.

See: super simple.

Dust the surface you are working on with corn flour.
Make a small ball of fondant to stand your chocolate up on.

Roll out the rest of the fondant - roughly large enough to cover your chocolate.
If you want to, you can dust it with white luster dust at this stage. For large area like this, use a sponge to apply the luster dust.

Drape it over the chocolate. If it's a little short, don't worry - this ghost can't escape the force of gravity - the weight of the fondant will pull the edge downwards.

If it is too long, trim the edge with a round cookie cutter, or with your cutting tool of choice

Make three small balls of black fondant - slightly oval is better. And attach with tylose glue, or just a dab of water. (If you have a black edible marker, you can use that instead, of course.)

That's it...

...it's not meant to look like a ghost, by the way. It's meant to look like a child dressed up as a ghost - last minute, mom-can't-sew kind of thing....
(If I had more time, two little feet sticking out the bottom would be super sweet, wouldn't it?)

My children better never expect me to make them Halloween costumes. They might just find themselves covered in giant sheets of fondant...

Happy creating!


Sunday, 14 October 2012

5 Eggs and a Brick of Butter

It's been an egg-cellent weekend so far (sorry, couldn't resist!)  We've actually had sunshine - glorious, yellow sunshine (not the weak white wintery kind). And we've put a whole bunch of eggs to great use.

This morning my husband whipped up a pretty fine batch of scrambled eggs - I only mention this because he doesn't  can't cook...and thankfully he got it right the first time, so there were enough eggs left for me to do what I had planned (we go through eggs like crazy in this house!):
Lemon curd and Swiss Meringue Buttercream.

I love making these two - because together they use up five eggs, and 1 brick of butter. Ok, it's a crazy thing to love, but you see - it's the symmetry of it. The lemon curd uses up the yolks, the SMB the whites; and each use white sugar and butter, and a double boiler.
So = perfect to plan to make together : ))

I've posted the recipes before, so nothing new here. But I just wanted to mention them again, because both are really worth making. And if you don't have any reason to use the SMB immediately, it freezes very well.
I'm freezing the batch I made today - I have a ruffle-cake in mind for someone special's birthday in a couple of weeks time, and SMB is such bliss to pipe.

So, find the lemon curd recipe here

and the Swiss Meringue Buttercream recipe here. Don't be daunted by it - SMB is actually pretty simple, and extremely delicious! And it pipes beautifully.

(If you do have egg yolks left over after making something, here is a link to a site that has recipe suggestions for how to use up extra yolks, from 1 - 12! So handy! )

Let me know if you try these out...

Happy whisking!


Saturday, 13 October 2012

Rum and Coffee Cake

I don't drink (alcohol) so I got quite a buzz out of making this cake - literally. Obviously the alcohol evaporates in the cooking process, but the batter is a different story. I don't like the taste of spirits, but it turns out I don't have a problem with them when they're paired with dark chocolate and coffee! And, obviously I couldn't let my children lick the bowl!

This cake evolved from a couple of different recipes: I wanted to make a small-ish cake for tea for Friday's class, and remembered a recipe that promised "this may not be a large cake, but its intense flavours ensure that it is a huge experience." Sounds enticing, doesn't it? But the recipe called for whiskey, and I don't have any.
 So, then I got thinking about making a chocolate torte, instead; but I couldn't get away from the "intense flavours" promise...
So this is what I came up with: a torte and a tot  - or actually a tot and a half : )

It's one of those recipes that you really need to get all your little bowls of ingredients ready beforehand. You know - like the way they always have everything prepared on TV shows.
I always want to bake that way, but instead usually land up grabbing ingredients out of their various storage places as I go along.

Ok, so this is what you need:

Rum & Coffee Cake

60ml Rum
60ml strong coffee - I didn't bother to make filter coffee, just used good quality free-dried granules
375g dark chocolate, chopped
100g ground almonds
50g flour
50g cocoa powder
75g + 1 TBS caster sugar
4 eggs separated
75g butter, at room temp
1 tsp vanilla extract (I use Vanilla Girl extract, so it is actually just a few drops)

Pre-heat oven to 180'C
Grease and line 2 x 15cm round cake tins (6 inch).
Melt together chocolate, rum and coffee. You can do it in a double-boiler, or in the microwave. If you choose the microwave - slowly does it. It will take 3-4 minutes at low power (30% power in my microwave), stirring or whisking the mixture every 2 minutes.
Allow to cool.

Whip egg whites until soft peaks form. Then sprinkle in the 1TBS of caster sugar, and whip until stiff.
Transfer to another bowl so that you can now use your mixer to:
Cream together butter and 75g caster sugar. Add vanilla and egg yolks. Beat well.
Beat cooled chocolate into butter/yolk mixture.
Sift in almonds - break up any clumps. Beat in.
Sift in flour and cocoa powder. Beat until just combined.
Fold in 1 spoon of the whipped egg whites, then gently fold in the rest. Combine until whites are no longer visible.
Divide equally between the two prepared tins.

Bake for approx 35 minutes, or until a skewer comes out with a few moist crumbs attached
(if you use larger baking tins, you will have to shorten your baking time).

Allow to cool in the tin, then cool completely on a cooling rack.

Pair it with chocolate or caramel icing, chocolate ganache or just a dusting of icing sugar.
...And definitely a cup of coffee...or a tot of sherry ; )



Monday, 8 October 2012

Caramel Cupcakes with Two-Tone Icing

What is it about Mondays?!
I suppose it didn't help that it was first day of school after the holiday (why so brief?), or that we are still living in a damp and drizzly cloud. Honestly, you open the door and the mist just comes inside and lurks. The cookies I iced on Saturday still hadn't dried by this morning. And the cookies themselves had become soft and soggy. Grrr. And this weather is set to last this whole week...and next.
Thank goodness this Friday's class is cupcakes, and not cookies. It's the first of the Scary Things! classes, and I can't wait!

Enough about the weather (enough already, weather!)
If you are looking for a sweet treat to pick up your week...have a bite of this:

Caramel Cupcakes with Caramel / Chocolate Two-Tone Swirls

125g butter, cubed
100g white chocolate, chopped in pieces
120g brown sugar
90g golden syrup
160 ml milk
1 egg
200g flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp caramel essence
1 tsp vanilla extract

Pre-heat oven to 175'C.
Line a 12-hole muffin tray with cupcake cases.

Heat butter, chocolate, sugar, syrup and milk together in a saucepan. Stir until all melted and smooth.
Transfer to a bowl, and allow to cool for 15 minutes.
Whisk egg into cooled mixture. Add vanilla and caramel essence.
Sift flour, salt and baking powder into the cooled chocolate mixture, and whisk until combined.
Spoon into the prepared cupcake cases.
Bake for approx. 25-30 minutes, or until an inserted skewer comes out clean.

Two -Tone Icing:
Caramel Cream Icing
Chocolate Cream Cheese Icing

There are a few ways to get the two-tone effect - but in this case I placed an icing bag loaded with the chocolate icing inside another bag, and loaded the outer bag with the caramel icing...I hope that you can visualize it, I was icing these at 7.30 this morning, and photos were the last thing on my mind.
And then just to make Monday Monday, my 2 1/2 year old daughter tried to help me by pulling the   cupcake carrier off the counter...Needless to say, the cupcakes didn't look so pretty by the time we had tea at Tots class. Oh, well. They're just cupcakes. (I wasn't quite that sanguine at the time, though!)

Have a sweet week!


Sunday, 7 October 2012

The Ideal Cookie

Okay, I think I've found it - the cookie recipe that is my go-to, fall back, old faithful. The cookie recipe that I will claim as mine. But, if you like it, you're welcome to stake your claim on it!

In my old life - BC (before children / before cupcakes & cookies) - when I was studying, we were taught to compare medications to a gold standard, "Ideal Drug".
It would be something that had the following properties: most importantly the drug did what it was designed to do, and only that, with no ill effects; and also that it was stable, predictable, easily used, and inexpensive - or rather "profitable" if you are reading the pharmaceutical company's criteria ; )

 The ideal drug doesn't exist.

So while I've been searching for the "ideal cookie" recipe, this has been in the back of my mind...

The ideal drug may not exist, but I'm certain the ideal cookie does: and I'm determined to find it.
I think I'm coming close.  

The properties of the Ideal Cookie:

Tastes great
Is versatile
Rolls out and cuts out well
Bakes well - maintains its shape, and isn't fragile after baking.
Bakes flat.
Creates the ideal canvas for decorating.
Stores well.

...Life-saving stuff!

So, this is what I'll share with you:

Tea, Cake & Create's
Vanilla & Spice Cookie Recipe

800g flour
400g caster sugar
300g butter
2tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
Vanilla extract (I use Vanilla Girl extract)

Optional: Almond essence
                Orange essence
                Spices -cardamon, cinnamon, ginger, mixed spice, etc*
                Orange or lemon zest

Cream together the butter and sugar.
Then add the eggs, beating well.
Add in the vanilla and any essence. Add zest now if using.
Sift in the flour, salt, baking powder and spices*
Mix until clumping, then knead into a ball of dough, and place in a freezer bag.
Refrigerate for at least an hour/ overnight - until the dough is stiff enough to work with (dough may also be frozen).

*For a mildly spiced cookie I usually use 1tsp of mixed spice, and 1/2 tsp of cardamon

 Line  baking trays with baking paper, or dust with corn flour.
Roll out onto a surface dusted with corn flour. Cut out shapes with cookie cutter, place on baking trays and refrigerate again (15 min).
(If the dough becomes to soft to work with when rolling out, just pop it back into the fridge or freezer until it firms up again.)

Bake for 12 minutes at 180'C or until the cookie edges are just starting to brown.

Leave to cool on the baking tray for about 5 minutes, before moving to a cooling rack.

Leave to cool completely before decorating with royal icing.

Cookies may be frozen, iced or un-iced.

Makes 50-60 medium sized cookies.

To see how to ice these citrus cookies, visit sweetopia.net/2012/07/when-life-gives-you-lemons-lemon-cookie-recipe-tutorial/

Let me know how this recipe works for you...


Thursday, 4 October 2012

Easy Owl Cupcake Toppers

Did you have any paste left over from the previous owl project? Did you still have some unfinished owl business? Well, if you were me the answer to both those questions was: Yes!

So..hoo-hoo...this is a super-easy cupcake topper, that you don't need much to make:

An oval, or round cutter, and an icing nozzle.
A bit of fondant / tylose paste/ mix of both. (pink, brown, white, orange - or whatever you have)
A roller and a knife.
A toothpick.
Tylose glue.

(See here for a tutorial on tylose paste and glue).

 First, roll out your pink paste and cut out your oval or round shape, then cut off part of the top wit the same cutter.

 Cut a triangle of orange for the beak, indent it with a toothpick to create nostrils, attach it with tylose glue

Roll out brown paste and use the oval/ round cutter again to make wings

Use the cutter on the other side of the cut out paste, too. Make 2, and attach with tylose glue.

Roll out some white paste, and cut out round eyes using the icing nozzle. 

Stick them onto the owl with tylose glue, and make two little round brown balls of paste to stick onto the white. 

Make 2 balls of orange and stick them on as feet.

Indent the claws using the blunt side of a knife

Emboss the chest of the owl using the tip of the icing nozzle. 

That's it.  
Owl done. Unless of course you can't resist making a few more...


Happy creating! 


Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Fondant Owl Cake Topper Tutorial

 My head is overflowing with cookie and cupcake classes at the moment. I'm working on all the next few themes simultaneously.
So my dining room table is scattered with works-in-progress: black cat and pumpkin Halloween cupcakes; "fabric" flowers for the Vintage cupcake class, and animal print cookies for the Jungle Fever class. There are ghosts and mummies (cookies) in my freezer; and Father Christmas, Rudolph, wreaths and snowflakes waiting to be decorated in tupperware in the kitchen.
And then a few other non-theme cookies that I just randomly had the desire to decorate this week.

So, I thought I'd just throw something else into the mix:
A fondant  owl cake topper. The little hedgehog we made a while ago needed a woodland friend...
I made both for a friend's baby shower cake a few months ago, and she's been in my thoughts this whole week - so, this one is for you Colleen. Wishing you a speedy recovery : )

The owl is a simple character to do, and you really don't need a lot of fancy tools. I've used fondant tools because I've got them, but I'll tell you what you can do as an alternative:

What you need:

A small ball of fondant (just smaller than a golf ball) in your main colour - pink in this case
A smaller one in another colour - brown here
A marble sized ball of fondant in orange
And an even smaller ball of white fondant.
Tylose powder
Tylose glue
Holsum (white vegetable fat) or corn flour
A knife
A roller
A toothpick or  kebab stick
A short piece of dry spaghetti
Black sprinkles
A small heart cutter
(Handy - but not essential - small flower cutter, small round cutters, stitching tool, "feathering" tool)

Start with the pink fondant...

(Keep all the other balls of fondant covered in plastic to prevent them drying out.)

Add a small amount of tylose powder - just less than 1/4 tsp - to the pink ball, and knead it in.

Separate this paste into two balls - one slightly larger than the other.

Shape the larger ball into an ovoid shape

Shape the smaller ball by pinching out the "ear" tufts using your thumb and index finger

Insert the spaghetti into the larger ball

And then put on the head

Now, add some tylose powder to the brown paste - just a little - and knead together, 

Roll it out, and cut out 3 hearts (you may need to grease your work surface with holsum, or dust with corn flour)

Texture one heart with the stitching tool, or just use the toothpick, and use a little glue to attach to the owl's body.

Texture the other two hearts, either with a fondant tool, or just use the side of the toothpick...

Attach the wings to the sides of the owl's body with some tylose glue. Curl them up slightly.

Roll out the orange paste, cut out a flower and cut in two 

Attach them with tylose glue 

(If you don't have a small flower cutter, simply make the feet by using a knife to indent claws into two small balls of orange paste.) 

Roll a small ball of paste for the beak

Make it pointy at one end

Indent the pointy end with a knife

 Make two nostrils

 And attach with tylose glue

Roll out the brown paste and the white fondant, and cut out rounds (or simple flatten small balls of each  to create the rounds of paste)

Glue the whites onto the brown

Add the black sprinkes (or wait for the paste to dry, and then draw or paint on the dots with an edible marker or black gel.)

Glue onto the owls face

Roll out a few thin strands of brown paste, and attach to the owl's head

Owl's that?