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Nutella Cupcakes

This weekend was World Nutella Day (no, really) and since I have fond memories of Mister North and I sharing a jar of this hazelnut infused wonder on family holidays to Italy and then keeping the jar as a drinking glass, I thought I would have to do something to acknowledge the day. Since I had a group of friends coming round for tea and cake, cupcakes sounded just right!

There is a recipe for ‘chocolate and hazelnut cupcakes’ in The Hummingbird Cookbook, but since I really don’t like their recipes with their reliance on milk in the sponge, I decided to use this recipe which can be made gluten free as well.

Since I have no gluten issues, I didn’t have the makings for those cupcakes and decided to use the standard recipe instead, so I cannot comment on how the gluten free ones turn out. Both recipes look very easy and follow the standard method for making a cake. I followed it exactly apart from going freehand with the Nutella as I figure life was too short to measure out a 1/4 cup of it as it isn’t the most malleable consistency, and it’s unlikely anyone would complain about them being too chocolately or too hazelnutty!

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Never Fail Fudge…

Among the many things Father Christmas brought for my kitchen last month was a stocking filler of very large jar of Marshmallow Fluff. A bit of an American classic, it is basically what they fill Tunnocks’ Snowballs (without the delicious, but fiddly outer coating of chocolate and coconut that goes everywhere you try to eat them.) You can eat it from the jar, as I used to as a teen when Mister North used to bring me pots of the stuff, make the legendary Fluffernutter sandwich if you mix it with peanut butter or you can do what I did and use it to make fudge.

As I mentioned before, I am nervous about hot sugar and therefore I have never tried to make fudge or toffee before, but this recipe describes itself as Never Fail Fudge. That sounded like my thing!

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Supermalt Cupcakes

A recent blog post by friend Yoruba Girl Dancing about white people’s lack of love for Supermalt got me thinking. I love the taste of malt thanks to growing up with Veda bread and working in a diner as a teenager making malted milkshakes, so I don’t really mind Supermalt, although I do find it teeth-itchingly sweet. But having never sampled it until I moved to Brixton, it’s not really part of my repetoire and I would never buy it to quench my thirst. What about cooking with it instead?

I made these Coca-Cola cupcakes for my friend G’s birthday party a few weeks ago and was impressed by how easy they were to make and how incredibly moist and brownie-esque they were. I could see no reason why they wouldn’t work with Supermalt instead of Coke. Hopefully they’d be as moist as the Coca-Cola ones, but more like a cake crossed with Soreen…

The slight risk that they might just be disgusting meant I decided to make them over the weekend for a birthday party where I knew my friend C would be bringing some of her legendary lemon and blueberry cupcakes which would take the taste away if my baking experiment went awry!

The trickiest part of this recipe was finding a small enough amount of Supermalt. It tends to come in six packs and I had to go to several shops before I could get my hands on a single can of the stuff. Mission accomplished, I got cracking on the recipe. It is best to melt the butter, cocoa powder and Supermalt together first to allow it to cool slightly to minimise the chances of the egg curdling when you mix everything together. Out of interest, the amount of Supermalt (or Coke) required comes to about 2/3 of a normal can…

The Supermalt mixes takes about 5 minutes to melt and measuring out the rest of the ingredients does the same. Then you simply mix everything together, watching the batter going from thick and fudgy to soft and smooth by the time it is all mixed and combined. It’s one of the easiest cake recipes I know and it’s difficult to over-mix this batter so it’s a good one to do with kids. It’s also nice and thick for spooning into cases so great even if you’re a bit clumsy.

I used some new square cases from Ikea that are a cross between a bun and muffin case in size (and a rather fetching print to boot) and each one took two full dessertspoons of batter. Don’t overfill your cases with these cakes as they rise a fair bit and look better not overspilling the cases. Even with the slightly bigger cases, I got 18 cakes from this batter before popping them in the oven for about 25 minutes or until I remembered what was making the lovely baked smell in my flat…

While they were cooling, I turned my attention to making a frosting for the cakes. Last time I used the Coca-Cola buttercream suggested and found it to be incredibly sweet and a bit sickly even with a fizzy Cola Bottle for a touch of tanginess. This time I thought a cream cheese frosting would go down better. I combined two packs of full fat cream cheese with a splash of leftover Supermalt and two tablespoons of cocoa powder and found I had gone too much the other way and the frosting wasn’t sweet enough. In fact it had a bitter aftertaste that jarred somewhat. I abandoned the idea of adding more Supermalt and put a teaspoon of vanilla extract and about a tablespoon of icing sugar to sweeten it slightly and this time it was perfect. Light, creamy, slightly sharp and not at all cloying.

I left the cupcakes wrapped in a teatowel overnight and then my friend C very kindly frosted them for me the next day before I added a an extra blast of sharpness with some pomegranate seeds on top before serving them up to ravenous guests. And they went down a storm! I think they were much better with the Supermalt than the Coca Cola as they were less sweet and firmer and tasted more grown up with a bite of dark chocolate, but without losing the fudgy finish that sets these aside from the average chocolate cupcake.

If you manage to have any of these fabulous cupcakes left (I only had three) they also keep amazingly well wrapped in a teatowel to protect the frosting. They ultimately didn’t taste anything like Soreen cake, but were so good I’m glad I have a second spare can of Supermalt in the fridge to make these due to popular demand! Especially if I don’t have to go camping with them!