Cupcake

Everywhere I go there is massive enthusiasm for cake.

Has there been a cake revival or have we always loved our cake this much?

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Anyway, I think you should all bake cake this weekend. I promise it will pay dividends. Take a photo of it and with the help of few clever Instagram filters you can quadruple your returns. This is how I operate. Seriously I am not that good at baking (!) but there are no losses, especially when you find a few recipes you can trust. And I can help you there, having tried more than a few in my time. These days I return to the same recipes over again and I’m sharing these faithful few here on the blog.

Previously we have baked muffins here on the Dappled Things blog and as I have said a muffin is a robust cake that can be packed full of good stuff without doing any real damage to the substance of the cake. A muffin batter genuinely enjoys a bit of rough handling and will simply laugh in the face of any mistakes that occur in the making. You probably should go bake muffins if you are a nervous baker but if you are feeling a little more ambitious try a cupcake.

A cupcake is well dressed, well groomed and very very smart (compared to her country cousin; the muffin). A cupcake always dresses up to go out and is never seen without a gleaming coat of flawless pale icing and accessories: sugar-paste flowers, silver dragees and tiny pastel sprinkles. She is all vintage dresses and cute shoes, afternoon teas with thrifted tea cups and saucers, gilt edged and painted up with roses. She is sugar bowls with sugar cubes, silver sugar tongs, saucers with slices of lemon, cake stands in tiers with silver handles, doilies and white linen napkins. She is birthdays and weddings, afternoon tea parties in expensive hotels out in the country or down by the sea. She is vanilla and lemon, rosewater and lavender in an English cottage gardens or out amongst the fountains of an English stately home. Make her at home and you bring some of these things into your house.

Using the traditional creaming method to make such a cake will leave you too exhausted to ice her and enjoy her. There are too many stages and too many things to go wrong: the wooden spoon to cream the butter and the sugar, the whisk for the eggs, the trouble over curdling, the metal spoon anxiously cutting the flour into the softer ingredients without knocking out all that hard captured air. The dishwasher is full and you are nowhere near finished.

Forget it, there is an easier method.

Like my muffin method, this cupcake method is based on two bowls: one for dry ingredients and one for wet. The dry ingredient bowl is actually the bowl of your food processor and it is the food processor that will do all the hard work of ensuring you have a light and delicate sponge that is full of sweetness and air. I am indebted to the Hummingbird Bakery for this solution.

Make some cupcakes this weekend and send me a picture. Happy baking!

Cupcake Recipe

Ingredients

70g / 3 oz butter

210g / 7 oz plain flour

250g / 9 oz caster sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

210ml / 5 – 7 fl oz milk

2 eggs

Teaspoon of vanilla essence

1. Preheat the oven, 170 C / 325 F.

2. Line a deep muffin tin with 12 muffin cases (yes, a muffin tin not a bun tin).

3. Put the butter, flour, sugar and baking powder in the bowl of the food processor and blitz until it resembles very fine sand (you can not over-do this, super fine and filled with air is the aim).

4. In a second bowl or jug combine the milk, eggs and vanilla essence.

5. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and blitz.

6. Spoon the mixture into the cupcake cases. They should be about one half to two thirds full and you may find this mixture makes more than 12 cupcakes.

7. Bake for 25 minutes, until the sponge is risen and lightly brown.

8. Allow the cakes to cool before icing and decorating. Display on a cake-stand or vintage porcelain plate.

Finally, for cupcake ideas and inspiration there is always, Pinterest.

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A great weekend plus snickers muffins

I had a great weekend and thought I would post a blog before Andy and I set out on our date night walk on the beach.

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I was in charge on Friday night whilst Andy went over to Clitheroe to be with old work colleagues. I managed to get everyone to the right place at the right times and suitably fed (I don’t always manage this!) Lucy and I even had time to enjoy some fast food on the beach.

When I got in on Friday night it was too lonely to go to bed so I indulged in a little late night baking: snickers muffins and strawberry cheesecake. And because so many of you asked, I added the recipe at the end of this post.

On Saturday I went to a hen party brunch for the lovely bride-to-be, Helen. This is only the second hen event I’ve ever been to and I think I excelled myself by talking more frankly about sex than anyone else in the room and causing a few giggles (OK, not giggles, raucous laughter!) amongst the married women. I’m proud of that!

The rest of the weekend was spent in the wonderful company of our dear friend Katherine visiting from Australia. Twelve years ago she was part of an awe inspiring bunch of students who joined us for a time at the church in Lancaster and it was good to hear her memories and how her time in England has been a big part of her personal story in God. She was such a lovely house guest and blessed us all just by being.

Finally, our wonderful youth (who I love beyond what is reasonable) led the Sunday service and I got to spend some Sunday school time doing play-dough and reading Rainbow Fish with the under fives, followed by BBQ. And all this still left time for afternoon beer and books in the garden sun.

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Snickers Muffins

Ingredients

9oz/250g SR flour

4-5oz/100-150g castor sugar or golden castor sugar

1 heaped teaspoon baking powder

4 heaped table spoons smooth or crunchy peanut butter

4 snickers bars cut into small pieces

4oz/100g chocolate chips

4-5fl oz/100-150ml  milk or butter milk

3oz/75g melted butter

2 eggs

Preheat the oven, 160 or gas mark 3

Whizz up the flour and peanut butter in a food processor until in resembles sand/fine breadcrumbs

Combine with baking powder, chocolate chips, snickers bar bits and sugar in a bowl

Lightly beat the eggs then, combine all the wet ingredients in a second bowl

Combine the dry and the wet ingredients, being careful not to mix them too thoroughly

Divide the mixture between 12 muffin cases in a muffin pan

Bake until the muffins are well risen and lightly browned, 20-25 minutes

Cool on a wire tray

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Choc-chip banana muffins

I must be feeling better.

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I caught sight of two weary past-the-sell-by-date bananas in the fruit bowl at lunch time and before I even realised what I was doing I’d turned up the oven and was reaching for my sieve.

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Last week’s muffin post was my most popular post in the history of this little blog.

I especially enjoyed hearing from friends who had made the muffins with success. So here is another muffin recipe: really just an adaptation of last weeks recipe. You get a choice, choc-chip or double chocolate, which ever takes your fancy. To ensure superior results, my best suggestion is that you use the best chocolate and the best cocoa you can find. The bananas should be ripe to the point of rotting.

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Choc-chip banana muffins

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Ingredients

9oz/250g SR flour

4-5oz/100-150g castor sugar

1 heaped teaspoon baking powder

2-4 mashed bananas

4oz/100g dark chocolate cut into small chunks

4-5fl oz/100-150ml  milk or butter milk

3oz/75g melted butter

teaspoon of vanilla essence

2 eggs

Preheat the oven, 160 or gas mark 3

Combine all the dry ingredients, including the chopped chocolate, in a bowl

Lightly beat the eggs then, combine all the wet ingredients, including the mashed banana, in a second bowl

Combine the dry and the wet ingredients, being careful not to mix them too thoroughly

Divide the mixture between 12 muffin cases in a muffin pan

Bake until the muffins are well risen and lightly browned, 20-25 minutes

Cool on a wire tray

Double chocolate banana muffins

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Ingredients

9oz/250g SR flour minus 3 table spoons (heaped)

3 tablespoons of cocoa powder (heaped)

2-4 mashed bananas

4oz/100g dark chocolate cut into small chunks

4-5oz/100-150g castor sugar

1 heaped teaspoon baking powder

4-5fl oz/100-150ml  milk or butter milk

3oz/75g melted butter

2 eggs

1 teaspoon of vanilla essence

Preheat the oven, 160 or gas mark 3

After you have weighed out the flour, spoon three heaped tablespoons back into the bag and replace them with three heaped tablespoons of cocoa powder

Combine all the dry ingredients,including the chopped chocolate, in a bowl

Lightly beat the eggs then, combine all the wet ingredients, including the mashed banana, in a second bowl

Combine the dry and the wet ingredients, being careful not to mix them too thoroughly

Divide the mixture between 12 muffin cases in a muffin pan

Bake until the muffins are well risen, 20-25 minutes

Cool on a wire tray

Muffins

I’ve been unwell now for a couple of weeks: I have pleurisy, which is an important (almost Dickensian) sounding name for a chest infection.

I had a busy Easter with things to do and stuff on my mind. I was feeling a little under the weather. I staved it off with prayers and pills and the kind of adrenaline rush that only comes from teaching bottom set RE last period in the afternoon. Then I ended up in bed with flu followed by pleurisy.

So I’ve slept a little, read a little, knitted a little and told myself, ‘be kind to yourself’ and two weeks later its getting hard because I really should be better by now and I’m not.

A friend from work texted me saying, “no baking for you then'” as if a lack of cupcakes was the most important thing here.  As if cakes were more important than health! He’s quite right though, I can’t even make it to the kitchen to sieve a little flour, melt some butter and whip up a pan of muffins. But I can type so I thought I’d share my muffin recipe and some thoughts on the pleasures of baking.

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People think I’m good at baking, but really I’m not.

I just have a few very forgiving recipes. By this I mean recipes that show me mercy in every circumstance. They don’t flinch if the scales are a few ounces out or if I have to substitute an ingredients.  They still show up for me if one of the kids leans on the cooker during baking and accidently turns the temperature down and if I use plain flour instead of self raising or forget the baking powder: the texture will be different but the confection still ultimately delicious.

A muffin is a much more forgiving cake than a cupcake or a sponge. It thrives on rough handling, inaccurate weighing and postiviely hates to be combined too thoroughly. If you don’t have fancy baking paraphernalia (like muffin cases) your little cake will sit very happily swaddle in a piece of baking paper, it really does not need pleats and bows (though you will need a 12 hole muffin tin).

A muffin is also a serious cake and it is a sensible cake. It’s like, cereal, fruit or wholemeal bread. A muffin takes us back to nature and the good things of the soil, rain and sun: it is a milk and honey, fat-of the land kind of a cake. It is fruitful: a cornucopia overflowing with almond, walnuts, pecans, whole-grains, seeds, berries, and orchard fruits.

So, stir up a batch of muffins, take them from the oven and cool them on a wire tray.  Put the kettle on and make yourself a cup of tea (in the pot now – no scrimping). Quickly tidy round the sitting room and clear your favourite chair of pyjamas, reading books, knitting, teddies or whatever debris is currently concealing it.

You will need a really good book and little piece of quiet, then you can sit down with a nice brew and a homemade cake.

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The recipe is an eclectic blend of every muffin recipe I ever investigated, on page, screen or by word of mouth. If I threw all the muffin recipes I have ever used up into the air and collected up the piece where they landed this is the recipe that would result. You can replace the cranberries and almonds in this recipe with any combination of dried fruit, fresh fruit, nuts, seed, or chocolate of your choice.

It is impossible to go wrong with this recipe.

Cranberry and Almond Muffins

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Ingredients

9oz/250g SR flour

4-5oz/100-150g castor sugar

1 heaped teaspoon baking powder

2oz/50g dried cranberries

1/2 teaspoon of almond essence (optional)

4-5fl oz/100-150ml  milk or butter milk

3oz/75g melted butter

2 eggs

2oz/50g flaked almonds

Preheat the oven, 160 or gas mark 3

Combine all the dry ingredients, apart from the flaked almonds, in a bowl

Lightly beat the eggs then, combine all the wet ingredients in a second bowl

Combine the dry and the wet ingredients, being careful not to mix them too thoroughly

Divide the mixture between 12 muffin cases in a muffin pan

Sprinkle the top of the mixture with flaked almonds

Bake until the muffins are well risen and lightly browned, 20-25 minutes

Cool on a wire tray