Good ol’ Caramel Rum n Raisin Cupcakes and a couple of Kites

I’m not huge on frostings. Seriously. Most times when I’m faced with a cupcake laden with frosting, I tend to have a pile of frosting sitting on the side of my plate. And believe me it does take some dexterity to get that frosting off without losing the top of your precious cupcake lying beneath. 

So, there it is, I’ve said it. I like a cupcake without frosting and don’t you tell me to eat a muffin instead. For starters, there’s a huge difference between the two, though with many a patisserie churning out cakey muffins, the true more bready muffin with its pat of butter is finding its identity merging with that of its sweeter, cakey cousin. I love muffins by the way, but today is about cupcakes, though the batter was so moist I ended up adding a little more flour than my recipe originally called for. I thought I’d have to re-christen it a muff-cake, but that bordered on x-ratedly weird, so I ditched the idea. What’s a touch of extra flour when the result is this boozy, decadent, moist and heavenly cake in a couple o’ bites.

It all started with this pair of kites outside my window and their quest to build a nest. Now how difficult do you think building a nest would be for a couple of kites, given that they are pretty much the largest birds in these skies.

The Home-maker... twig in beak

The home-maker...twig in beak

Massively difficult as I found out. Though at the end of the day, or the week more like it, the kites did prevail. It kind of made me think of a pregnant Mary doing the round of inns in Bethlehem with Joseph, and having the door slammed in her face. Only this time around it was the crows who played dirty. What’s it about crows playing spoilsport to a pregnant kite. Predator like they dive-bombed the poor kite who valiantly tried to hold her ground at first, then hopped about from branch to branch desperately holding on to an all too large twig she had carried up into the tree, before dropping it and screeching for help.

And it arrived. Her mate, careening in at top speed into the murder of crows, seven of them, at times even nine, scattering them about, before the nasty critters regrouped (apologies to all you crow lovers out there) and turned on him, chasing him off, pursuing him from tree to tree, pecking at his tail feathers.

we're watchin' you... with our little black beady eyes

I’m not merely talking the common house crow here, but also the more vicious jungle variety, larger, black and sharper beaked, almost raven-like. Two hours every morning, and then they were gone, off to gloat about their little victory over the kites who after the crows departed each day would go into high gear, building twig upon twig, but to no avail. The next day would find the crows back at their vicious game, the mess of twigs dismantled, the dive-bombing back on point. But the doughty kites persisted, and the crows finally gave up. I’d like to believe that they were just messing around and realised they’d gone too far. Whatever it was, it meant that the nest was up, twigs, cloth, cotton and whatever else the kites could muster. I caught a glimpse of what I thought was an egg yesterday, there must be, because mama kite sits in the nest all day, while her mate dutifully tends to her, bringing tasty tidbits and sitting on the branch of the adjoining tree screeching out what I can only assume to be the kite equivalent of “any time now” to every passing avian who would care to know.

And then I was meeting a friend for dinner and two good things in one day called for a treat. Rum n Raisin’s always a winner… but with a twist. Or squeeze as it turned out, (a good couple of squeezes in fact) of Hershey’s caramel syrup (and no… Hershey’s isn’t paying me a dime. Though if any one from Hershey’s reads this post I have a list on the ready, and I would be grateful if they obliged :-))

I ended up using a little more flour than I normally use for this recipe, close to 1 1/3 cups (because the caramel syrup and rum made the batter a bit more runny than I expected) to my cup of butter (softened) and powdered sugar (+ 2 tablespoons of the sugar). Creamed the butter n sugar before adding in two eggs, a 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract and the flour which I sifted with a level teaspoon of baking powder and a pinch of baking soda. I used dark raisins (aka black raisins… about 3/4 of a cup and some currants (1/4 cup) that had been steeping for a couple of months in rum. Oh yeah! Adding in 2 teaspoons of balsamic vinegar and a teaspoonful of granulated sugar just to take it a notch higher.

Ummm…

Don’t forget to add in a couple of tablespoons of the rum the raisins have been steeping in as well.

And then…

Now, I could have made caramel from scratch, but then I figured I’d let Hershey’s owe me one ;-) So about 4 large tablespoons of caramel syrup. And that was it, incorporate everything well, none of that measured muffin folding technique required here.

deliciously decadent!

I allowed the batter to sit for 10 minutes before filling up the cupcake liners about 3/4 of the way. Then baked them in a pre-heated oven at 200° C for 15 – 18 minutes.

Let the cupcakes cool completely before biting into an explosion of flavours. Rum… raisin… caramel… and yeah… ‘Don’t Eat n Drive!’

Apples, Raisins and Salted Honey Pistachio Cupcakes

It’s always lovely catching up with old friends… especially when more than a decade has elapsed since the time you last met and you know that that won’t matter at all when you finally do.

That time while seemingly at a standstill in some ways, may have galloped along in so many others. But where growth and change embraces familiarity with such ease, that it’s comforting.

So naturally I wanted to carry something special when I went across to meet my old friend, and what better I thought, than a batch of home baked cupcakes. The only problem was I didn’t have the time to go out shopping for ingredients and though I had the basics I didn’t know what else I would find in my pantry.

What I did find were raisins, a few apples and a couple of jars full of pistachios, walnuts and almonds. And here they are…my Apple, Raisins and Salted Honey Pistachio Cupcakes.

These cupcakes were made in a flash, once the raisins were halved and stewed in a heady mix of rum, cinnamon and cloves.

The grated apples, added halfway through the stewing process, broke down the apples just enough to infuse them with the spiced rum and raisins, till it all came together into a richly flavoured deep golden melange…

The pistachios drizzled with honey, sprinkled with rock salt and roasted at 180 degrees C… sat alongside the raisin and apple mix… cooling down until it was time.

And then butter, sugar and eggs creamed together with a pinch of salt and some vanilla extract, met with the fruit mix, the flour and the nuts… and the batter found its way into star shaped muffin moulds….

Baked at 180 degrees C for approx 25 – 30 minutes… cooled, flipped over… just for the joy of it (I thought they looked prettier bottom side up)…

I had some frosting sitting in my freezer so I splashed in some rum, to get it up and going and then poured the frosting over the cakes, letting it rum… oops run over the sides…

And my friend loved them…

So a silent prayer of thanksgiving goes out to the heavens for friends, for the purity of friendships and for love that transcends time and age.

And for…

all things bright and beautiful,
all creatures great and small,
all things wise and wonderful

…and for the Lord God who made them all!

Beet, Coffee n Carrot Cupcakes

Bought a batch of beets and had a few juicy carrots sitting in my fridge, so I figured why not try and combine the two and see what it tastes like.

A double shot of espresso bunged into the batter makes this surprisingly moist and dense cupcake taste wonderful on its own…

Here are the ingredients:

I cup beets – boiled till tender and grated

3/4 cup grated carrots

1/4 cup honey – heated with 1/4 cup packed brown sugar – mixed with 1/4 cup (60 ml) hot espresso (or water)

1 cup butter, at room temperature, cubed

1 1/2 cup flour

1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon powder

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg powder

1/4 teaspoon paprika

1/2 teaspoon grated ginger

1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

3 large eggs, separated, at room temperature

pinch of rock salt

3/4 cup powdered sugar

For the frosting:

2 cups cream or fresh cottage cheese, at room temperature

1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature

2 1/2 cups icing sugar

1 medium carrot grated fine

A few drops of vanilla extract

Zest of 1 lime

Juice of 1/2  lime

Bake at 160 degrees C for 20 – 25 minutes or until done.

So like I said… these cupcakes taste wonderful on their own. But they taste even better with a carrot and lemon cream cheese frosting (you can use soft cottage cheese in lieu of cream cheese)…

Enjoy…

Cupcake Tales 1

You remember that rhyme you learned when you were little? The one that went….

        Pat-a-cake, pat-a-cake, baker’s man.

        Pat-a-cake, pat-a-cake, baker’s man.

        Bake me a cake as fast as you can;

        Pat it and prick it and mark it with B,

        Put it in the oven for baby and me.

… I do!

I love cupcakes but I’m not a huge fan of the overly sweet offerings that the neighbourhood patisserie brings out… and then I’m also partial to the odd splash of dark rum and the occasional aged Scotch whiskey… in my cakes of course… not forgetting all that wonderful seasonal fruit that we get here in Mumbai… which sadly gets reduced to a few dubiously bright green slices of kiwi fruit and something that looks like canned mango sitting atop white iced cakes in the display windows of cake shops.

This page is dedicated to all those terribly dry and god-awful cakes I’ve had the misfortune to have eaten at some point in my life and then and in gratitude to all those nameless and some known cake makers who have turned out lip-smackingly moist and delicious offerings that made me hunger for more and kindled in me the desire to turn on my oven, cream butter n sugar n eggs, toss in the flour and whatever else catches my fancy, put on my coffee maker, sit those delicious mouthfuls of yumminess on the rack to cool… pour myself a huge mug of steaming hot coffee…. curl up with a book and depending on whether I have the patience or the desire to glaze or frost them, and eat them later…. a nice cupcake!

That’s Life!