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!’

Have yourself a boozy little Christmas… Cake

So it’s Christmas time once again.

Bring out the buntings, clamber up onto your loft (your attic or basement) and get out the ornaments. Put up your tree… don’t forget the angel on top, and the lights… and try not to electrocute yourself.

Put up the crib… we put Jesus in at midnight at my parents place, where we all gather for lunch, if we’re in town… after all Christmas is about tradition and family.

But Christmas is also about cake… and the boozier, the better.

So here’s my recipe. The base recipe was from a woman who’s cooking class my sister attended years ago. But I’ve tweaked it over the years, reworking, adding and subtracting elements.

I usually bake this cake for my parents every Christmas… another tradition. So I guess I should call it ‘Ma n Pa’s Boozy Christmas Cake’.

This one’s for them!

And now comes the most important part… aka… ‘Steeping the fruit in alcohol’.

I use a combination of angelica, mixed peel, raisins, glacé cherries and black currants… chopped (raisins halved and black currants whole), bottled and then drowned in enough rum to allow the liquor to seep into every fibre of the fruit, plumping them up. My mother usually soaks the fruit in rum for close to a year.

This year I decided to get heady and used a combination of aged whiskey soaked black currants with the rest of the rum soaked fruit… and it worked!

So onto the cake….

Start with creaming the butter and powdered sugar.

I actually used a weighing scale and measured out the ingredients instead of going the cup route (at least for some of the ingredients).

190gms of butter and powdered sugar each to 240gms (about 2 cups) of flour mixed with 2 teaspoons of baking powder. (If you’re using unsalted butter do not add salt, otherwise you may want to add in about a quarter to half a teaspoon to the flour.)

At this stage measure out the fruits into a bowl, about 3 cups of the fruit. Since I soaked the black currants separately my ratio was about 2 3/4 cups of the balance of the rum soaked fruit mix, and about 4 tablespoonfuls of the black currants. Add in a couple of tablespoonfuls of the liquor from each bottle as well as the juice of a lime (half a lemon if you’re using lemons) and the zest of one lime.

I don’t use store bought mixed spice and prefer to make my own… a blend of clove, cinnamon, nutmeg and paprika for this cake, blending the spices in a mortar and pestle, before adding it to the fruit mix. Then cover and reserve for later.

After creaming the butter and sugar, add in the eggs. Four large eggs are perfect… whipping them in a separate bowl and adding them one at a time.

Add in the vanilla extract (about 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoon should be enough) and about 5 tablespoons of caramel. Be sure to taste at this stage to ensure that your caramel isn’t bitter.

Once the ingredients are blended… mix in the fruit. Often recipes call for mixing the fruit into the flour and bunging the flour mixed fruits into the butter, sugar and egg mix, but I prefer it this way.

Add in the flour and baking powder mix (i.e. the dry ingredients) to the wet ingredients, folding it in, a little at a time, till well incorporated (i.e. till a luscious batter is formed).

Then pour the batter into a prepared cake pan. I used a rectangular cake pan (9 1/2 x 7 inches – on the inside)…

Bake in a preheated 150 degrees C oven for about 1 hour 50 minutes (as this cake is rather dense) or till a thin skewer inserted in the centre of the cake comes out clean. And I still had a little left over to make a heart shaped cupcake.

The baker’s reward!

Merry Christmas!

And here’s wishing everyone a generous helping of peace on earth, a huge dollop of joy and a extra large serving of happiness!

Amen and Shalom!

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…

Guava with zesty Orange-Guava Frosting

It’s guava season and the heady aroma as you pass by carts laden with these delicious fruit can’t escape your notice.Besides don’t you just love seasonal fruit in a cupcake…

These guavas were from a fruit seller on Hill Road. I was in a hurry and walked past his cart, then stopped, back-tracked and picked up the biggest, most intoxicating of the lot he had…

Here are the ingredients –

3 – 4 guavas (scoop out the seeds and grate)

1 1/2 cups All Purpose Flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon mixed spice

3/4 cup vegetable oil (or 3/4 cup melted butter)

3 large eggs

1 cup light brown sugar (packed)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Bake in a preheated oven at 180 degrees C for 20 – 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool the cupcakes completely on a wire rack before frosting.

And for the ‘Zesty Frosting’ you’ll need –

1 1/4 cups white powdered sugar

1/2 teaspoon orange zest (grated)

2 1/2 tablespoons fresh orange juice

And the result….

Cakes n Cupcakes

Came across this poem and loved it… Thank you Irene C S ClarkHogg for your delightful words

Sonnet Cakes

Catch a passing flock of words
Put them in a pan
To make a happy sonnet
For your favourite man.

Add a pinch of rhythm
A spoonful of rhyme
Pop them in the oven
Then wait some time

Check if they are burning
Consult with your muse
About variety in flavours,
In structure, different views.

Jolly sonnet cakes for tea
Some for you and some for me.

– Irene C S ClarkHogg