This is where it begins, with baking. Baking has always seemed like some form of alchemy to me, possibly because of the exacting measurements required whereas I tend to chuck ingredients into my dishes. But, as I try to broaden my kitchen skills, I’ve decided that my first post will see me move out of my limited culinary comfort zone & delve into the magical world of cakes & baked sweet treats! If I can master this then everything else should be ok, shouldn’t it?
The impetus behind this was an imminent bake off at work in aid of Macmillan Cancer, a yearly event by this important charity. A friend at work who excels in baking gave me a fool proof recipe for Victoria Sponge. I tried it. It didn’t rise much. But it tasted good. On that same day, which shall forever more be known as ‘Baking Sunday’, I also tried whoopie pies following a recipe from sortedfood. I’ve attempted a few of their dishes & can highly recommend visiting their site. Anyway, they also turned out ok, but I didn’t stop there! I then turned to pasties. This is something I’ve made with my dad & adore, despite being from Devon I begrudgingly acknowledge the Cornish pasty as the king of pastry encased meat products! I cheated & used premade pastry but will soon attempt making my own.
With a tad more confidence the day of the bake off approached & I had already decided on the whoopie pie considering my previous success. But the lure of the cupcake was too strong, the still fashionable & delicious treat of choice seen in many office kitchens brought in by talented co-workers. It seems like everyone knows someone who has started or wants to start their own cupcake business & you can’t blame them when they taste so good, & seem to be open to myriad tasty variants. Searching the internet for ideas I discovered Cupcake Jemma on YouTube. Let’s be honest, she is very easy on the eye & that caught my attention. The recipe I chose seemed pretty straightforward & it included chocolate, always a winner.
The day before the bake off I found myself watching Jemma’s YouTube clip on my phone copying down the ingredients ready for that night’s endeavour. Some of my co-workers were nervous about the task ahead, I on the other hand couldn’t wait to get home & start! As I share a house with 4 other people I couldn’t get the kitchen to myself until about 8pm, when I eagerly began.
350g plain flour
370g caster sugar
60g cocoa powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
½ tsp salt
150g dark chocolate chips
1 cup of coffee
425ml vegetable oil
1 cup of buttermilk
3 large eggs
½ tsp vanilla essence
- Preheat your oven to 160°C
- Add the sifted flour, caster sugar, bicarbonate of soda & salt into a large bowl along with the chocolate chips & mix with a whisk until it’s all the same colour.
Things didn’t go according to plan to start with, I’d exhausted my supply of caster sugar & was still 37gs short! So I rushed out to the corner shop to restock, past a group of young ne’er-do-wells smoking the herb which made me pause momentarily. It was when in the shop an idea came to me & I also bought a large bag of M&Ms as well as a bag of giant Milky Bar buttons before returning to my kitchen.
- In a separate bowl add the coffee (making sure its cold first!), oil, buttermilk, eggs & vanilla essence whisking until all combined.
The vanilla essence isn’t in the original recipe, I just felt like adding it although not sure if it really made any difference. Especially in such a small amount.
- Add the dry mix to the wet & whisk until it’s all one lovely gooey chocolaty mess. Dip your finger in & give it a taste, nice isn’t it?
- Poor about half the mix into a large jug. This makes it easier to distribute the mix into your cupcake tray, which is what you have to do next. First make sure you’ve put your cupcake cases into the tray! Then carefully pour till each is about two thirds full.
- Pop into the preheated oven for 24 minutes.
As you can see, the rise wasn’t great. I’d put two trays in at once & the ones on the lower shelf were quite flat. I was also surprised at how much of the mix I had left. Apparently it was supposed to make 24 but I still had about half of it in my bowl. Had I not mixed it enough? It did seem a bit of a thin mix. On closer inspection I realised I’d bought rather small cupcake cases. So I carried on with a couple more batches, one at a time.
I ended up with a kitchen full of cupcakes, reminiscent of that scene in Fantasia where Micky Mouse dismembers a magic broom with an axe only for a myriad number of brooms to return & advance upon the pesky rodent.
The more observant of you will notice that the photo of ingredients included milk & butter, both of which are mysteriously absent so far. They are for the chocolate buttercream which goes on top of the cupcakes. I gave it a go, I really did, but without a mixing machine I quickly realised it was too much like hard work! Instead I melted some chocolate in the microwave (about 200g) & using a teaspoon added a little to the top of each cupcake rubbing in a circular motion with the back of the spoon. Then I decorated the cakes with either some mini marshmallows which I had in my cupboard, the aforementioned giant Milky Way buttons or M&Ms I’d bought earlier. I got quite specific about this, I couldn’t have any brown M&Ms on the cakes as they were already brown, & they had to be four different colours. For some reason I also didn’t want the logo showing.
If you’ve never made cupcakes before this recipe is a really good place to start. I would have liked a bigger rise but they were tasty & moist (most is a good thing, I’ve heard loads of people say it when they complement someone on their cakes). When I make them again I might reduce the cocoa content or try for different toppings as they had quite an intense chocolate taste. This was actually fine considering the small size but may be a bit rich if they were larger. Although accidentally diddy these cute little cupcakes would be ideal at a children’s party.