Cosmopolitan cupcakes/sexy beasts

I came across this idea while cruising that inter-web thingy everyone seems so fond of these days. Anyway, it’s a blog called ‘A cup full of cake’. These took my fancy because they are a)boozy, and b) sugary, which sort of means they’re like my two favourite things colliding. A bit like if Russell Brand and Matt Smith collided. You know. Sort of amazing. Enough of this rubbish, now to the cakes! Oh – the ingredients are all in cups, because that’s how the Americans roll. I’m into it if you’re into it, as Flight of the Conchords once sang.

As a footnote (so I can pretend I’m still at uni) I am not at all a fan of Sex and the City. However, if you do like watching a bunch of facially challenged women discussing the latest bout of chandelier-swinging they’ve been engaging in, then you might like to make some before watching. No offense. I’m sure it’s a great programme. Honest.

Another footnote. The actual cake is pink. Pink sponge. I’m not sure I’d impressed on you quite how cool that is. (Probs time to get out more.)

Sponge ingredients
1/2 cup butter (room temp)
2 cups sugar
2 eggs (room temp)
1/2 tsp salt
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
3 cups plain flour
1/4 cup buttermilk (Waitrose stocks this. True story.)
Zest of 1 lime
Pink food colouring

Makes about 20 million. Or, in non-hyperbolic terms, 24.

1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees c, and line your muffin tin with cases (oooh, that sounded positively RUDE. muffin tin. ha.)

2. Just beat it! Beat it….beat that sugar and butter. Then add your eggs one by one and beat after each. Add your lime zest.

3. Combine your dry ingredients and set aside.

4. Make up a batch of cosmopolitans (can be virgin if you so choose) according to the recipe at the bottom. Set aside. Do not, I repeat, do NOT drink the whole lot. See picture below – that’s right, kids – put your alcohol in a mug, it doesn’t make you look at all like a tramp.

5. Now take it in turns with the wet and dry ingredients, adding a bit at a time. This stops the mixture from curdling.

6. Add as much or as little food colouring as you like. I found this groovy all natural stuff called ‘Queen’ in Waitrose, so I went nuts and poured in a fair amount. Then fill your cases, about two thirds up to the top.

7. Into the oven with you! Around 20 minutes should do the trick nicely.

Icing ingredients
1 1/2 cups butter room temp
4 cups confectioners sugar
Pinch salt
1 tsp lime zest
Pink food colouring
3-4 tbsp of Cosmopolitan mix (told you not to drink it, didn’t I)

1. Now, icing wise, I am a wild child. I don’t conform to ruuuules, man. I tend to just chuck random quantities in the bowl and play it by ear. But I also understand that this does not a good recipe make. So feel free to shake off the shackles of the recipe and do your own thing, or equally follow it to the letter. You are your own person. Don’t ever let them take that away from you.

2. My icing bag is broken. Yeah. Life treats me very badly, you’re right. As a result, I ‘drizzled’ (slopped) icing on my cakes. Then grated lime across the top, and added a few dried cranberries on top, you know, just to make it mega healthy.

Have crazy fun, little ones.

Cosmopolitan recipe – makes roughly 15 ounces.
5 (1.5 fluid ounce) jiggers vodka
1/4 cup and 1 tablespoon cointreau
1 tablespoon and 2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
3/4 cup and 3 tablespoons cranberry juice

Lemon meringue cupcakes

Hello chaps! I had a bit of a tinker in the kitchen today, and have two new recipes to share with you all. First up is lemon meringue cupcakes with homemade lemon curd. I paid a lot of money that I don’t have for ‘Eat me!’ by a lady calling herself ‘Cookie Girl’. Apart from the naughty title, it’s essentially the book I should have written (damn you). I thought I’d give her a test run, hence these little babies. Don’t worry, it’s all alarmingly easy. Swear.

So, let’s start with our sponge.

Sponge ingredients
4oz cream cheese, room temp
1 tbsp icing sugar
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
40z unsalted butter
4oz sugar
2 large eggs
40z self-raising flour, sifted
1 tsp baking powder

1. You know the drill by now. Preheat oven to 180 degrees. Line a 12 hole muffin tin with paper cases.

2. Whisk cream cheese, icing sugar and lemon juice together, and leave to one side. Cream butter and sugar together. Light and fluffy, light and fluffy, repeat to yourself. Add eggs, one by one, and whisk after each. Then add the sifted flour and baking powder. Now slowly add your cream cheese mix. It should look vaguely unappetising (see below) but taste delicious.

3. Pop your mixture into the cases, but not more than HALF FULL. Hear that? Hey, hey, you with the spoon – no MORE. It’s gonna rise. Rise like Paris Hilton’s career after that sex tape ‘mishap’. Get them in the oven and leave them alone for 20 minutes, if you can possibly stop yourself from ravaging them, that is. Now take them out and pop them on a wire rack to cool.

Lemon curd
3oz unsalted butter
3 tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
4oz caster sugar
grated rind of 2 lemons

4. Lemon curd time! Kind of like Hammer Time, but…less crazy pants. Slide your butter and lemon juice into a pan on a medium heat until the butter melts. In a bowl, whisk the eggs, egg yolks and sugar together until blended.

5. Continue whisking while you add the hot butter mixture in gradually. Pour it all back into the pan. Cook on a medium heat, and stir with a wooden spoon until the mixture thickens. It’ll probably take around 5 minutes. Remove from the heat, strain into a bowl, and add the grated lemon rind.

2 large egg whites
2-4oz sugar (judge by eye)

6. Now for your meringues. I won’t lie to you, folks. I respect you more than that. It took me three attempts to get the meringues right. Firstly I shoved the sugar and the egg whites in a bowl all together and created raw egg soup. Second time, the egg whites took against me and wouldn’t co-operate (not very British of them, what what). Finally, it came out right. Much as I enjoyed ‘Cookie Girl’s recipe, she advised putting 8OZ of sugar in. She either has an unhealthy crack like dependency on sugar, or this was some sort of typo. Just put your sugar in by eye. Do yourself (and your insulin levels) a favour.

7. So, egg whites in a bowl, and whisk them into stiff peaks. Stop laughing. If you want that kind of thrill, go to a different kind of website. Add your sugar a little at a time and gently stir it in, taking care not to disturb the stiff peaks. Now, really. Grow up.

8. Take an apple corer and carve out the centre of your cupcake. What do you mean you don’t have an apple corer? You must! How the devil do you eat your apples then, you animal? Oh, fine. Use your finger. Or a knife. Anyway, scoop out a bit of the cake and pour lemon curd into the centre. Also spread a layer on top.

9. Get a spatula and swirl the meringue on top of the cupcake, sealing in the lemon curd. Hey presto!

The icing on the cake. Literally.

Well, you sexy beast. I bet you’re feeling pretty proud of yourself, aren’t you? You should be. There’s just one teeny tiny thing left to do to crown your cake in glory. I’m going to apologise in advance for my final pictures. It’s not a delicate attractive cake like wot I usually make. It’s a bit of a hulking brute. My excuse is it was a Monday afternoon extravagance, not a proper weekend cake. Anyway. Bring on the ganache.

Ganache ingredients
150ml double cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon unsalted butter
150g dark chocolate

1. You are going to be so, so excited when you see how easy this is.

2. Put it all in a pan.

3. Heat.

Did you just die a bit of excitement? I did. Glorious.

Now, you just spread your creme patissiere thickly on the top of one of the cakes:

My cake looks very flat here. It wasn’t. Must be a dodgy angle. Hmm…a camera angle that makes things look smaller than they are….I must experiment with that….

Then just spread your ganache on top. And take a huge slice out:

Honestly, I do apologise for this rather unattractive looking cake. It tastes delicious, I can assure you, and I’ll be making up for it this weekend with a Passionfruit and Lemon Curd layer cake, as well as other lovelies. Enjoy!

Putting the ‘cream’ in ‘Boston Cream Pie’

I promised fun stuff, and here it is. Let’s start with our Creme Patissiere. Wait! Don’t run away! It’s only a fancy sort of way of saying custard. Come back!! It’s NICE custard, I promise.

Creme Patissiere Ingredients
125ml milk (I used skimmed. You are master of your domain and may do as you please)
125ml double cream
1 vanilla pod or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 large egg yolks
50g caster sugar
15g plain flour

 1. Pop the milk and cream into a saucepan. (Easy. I PROMISE, the fancy custard is not as scary as it sounds). Now, take your vanilla pod – I’m assuming you’re not a corner-cutting lazy person, mentioning no names *DELIA SMITH* – and are indeed using a lovely vanilla pod. If you don’t, you won’t have the exquisite pleasure of sliding your knife in and gently but firmly scraping all those delicious vanilla-y specks out, creating the most gorgeous looking concoction in the pan. Once you go pod, you never go…well, back.

2. Now. Here is the only tricky part. You are going to bring this mixture to the boil. Sounds easy enough? Hey! You! Step away from that knob! Don’t be crazy – you can’t just boil this up like a pan of water. Scalded milk and cream with vanilla dots does not a gourmet custard make. You must be gentle. You must caress this creamy nectar. You must heat it up SLOWLY. So start it on a low heat setting, then gently slide up the heat to medium, and no more. Nigella says none of this by the way – she just says ‘heat it up’. But, blessed as she may be in the face department, she doesn’t care a jot about actually doing things properly, so I am explaining it all clearly for you. You can thank me later. Preferably with a slice of your delicious cake.

3. Once your mixture has just started to bubble, you must quickly rescue it from the heat. You are the knight in shining armour to your creme patissiere’s damsel in distress. Quick! Take if off! And cover it with a lid, and leave to infuse for 10 minutes (just as you’d treat a real damsel in distress.)

4. While it infuses away, turn to the next part, which is your egg base. You need to separate egg and yolk, and drop the yolks into a bowl. Then, beat together with your sugar until it forms a creamy mixture, then add the flour.

5. Now for the old switcheroo. Pour your infused cream into your egg mixture and cream together. Also remove your vanilla pod. Definitely don’t leave that hanging around. THEN pour this whole mixture back into the pan and heat and whisk until it forms your custard. It needs to be thick enough to sit nicely in the middle of your cake and not flop. Floppy custard is not an option.

Well done you! You survived posh custard! Next post will be the final component…the chocolate ganache…

Boston Cream Pie a la Nigella

So, as I’m not really a cake person (apart from tiny cupcakes, which are a whole different kettle of…tea), and also as someone who likes a challenge, I thought I’d have a crack at a Boston cream pie. For those in the know, it’s not a pie at all – it’s actually a layer cake with creme patissiere in the middle, and a bitter chocolate ganache on top. I’m breaking my blog down into two posts, one for the cakey part, and one for the topping and filling.

Sponge ingredients:
225g unsalted butter
225g caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 large eggs
200g self-raising flour
25g cornflour
3-4 tablespoons milk
2 x 21cm sandwich tins (about 5cm deep), buttered

The cake is a simple Victoria sponge recipe. Nigella (the charlatan) advocates just shoving everything in a food processor and mixing. Calls herself a domestic goddess…If you have a glorious Kitchenaid mixer, then go for it. If not, use the following method:

1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees C/gas mark 4. I used loose-bottomed tins (laugh it up…baking is joyful). I also lined the bottoms with parchment paper, but you can butter them up to your heart’s content if you so wish.

2. This is where dearest Nige shoves it all in a processor, so if you’re feeling suitably lazy, do that right now. ALTERNATIVELY, cream the butter and sugar together until very smooth. It MUST be super smooth, a baby-bottomy consistency. Any roughness at this stage will impede the eventual lightness and fluffiness of your sponge, and that simply wouldn’t do at all.

3. Now. This is the crucial stage. Add your vanilla, and then one egg. Beat for between 1 and 2 minutes. Add a tablespoon of flour and beat again. Add egg number two and repeat. Same with eggs number three and four. You MUST beat for a considerable amount of time after each egg. This is what will add air to the cake and eliminate any heavy, dry, styrofoam texture that puts you in mind of your lovely but inept grandmother’s teatime efforts.

4. You should now have a pale cream mixture that feels slightly stiff. Add as much milk as you think you need. (It shouldn’t be a huge amount)

5. Divide your mixture in two and pour into the two tins. Pop in the oven for around 25 minutes. Do keep vigilant. It would be simply criminal for anything to go wrong after all your hard work. Your masterpiece should turn golden brown and start to come very slightly away from the sides of the tin. Other signs of readiness should be a ‘springy’ texture when you lightly press a finger down on top of the cake. Slip a cake tester in and if it comes out clean, you’re in business.

6. Take them out of the oven and leave for 10 minutes. Then turn them out of their tins and leave to cool.

7. Now onto the fun bit. See the next post!