Cupcakes

Fat-Free Ice-cream Cupcakes! (*Okay, they’re not fat-free at all. Not even slightly).

Ice-cream or cake?  Cake or ice-cream?  Which to choose?  Debate no further; have it all.  Have both!  Well, almost…

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Last week I was inspired by this divine-looking recipe from Waitrose for cupcakes baked in an ice-cream cone and laced with marshmallow-style icing, with a hidden chocolate treat at the bottom – so we gave it a go.  Surprisingly, flat-based wafer cones (we used these ones) don’t burn in the oven, so as long as you wedge them firmly into muffin trays with some tinfoil, they’re pretty foolproof…

How to bake cupcakes in an ice cream cone

Cupcakes baked in ice cream cones

Once the cupcakes are cooled in their trays, gently slice off any tops which have risen above the cone; you want a nice flat surface for your icing.

Make the icing according to the recipe and then carefully spoon it into a large icing bag.  Unlike buttercream icing, it’s firm and pillowy and almost bouncy.  Voila..!

ice6You can test whether you have the right consistency via a number of different means.

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When you’re ready, pipe a swirl of icing onto the centre of each cupcake and then pipe around it, twisting off to give a soft-scoop flourish to the peak of each cake.

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For a true British seaside traditional effect we added a chocolate flake to half of ours…

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Marshmallow-frosted cupcakes with chocolate flake

And then scattered colourful sprinkles liberally over the rest..

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Once they’re set, the only dilemma is which one to try first..

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But be quick.

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For those in the US, the ever-ready Martha Stewart has a similar recipe here that won’t require you to juggle conversion tables for the ingredients.

Enjoy! And excuse us whilst we have a little lie down to recover from all the taste-testing…

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A Cupcake Armada (and back to school fever!)

Cupcake Armada

How are you?  Today feels like the last day of the long summer break, before school and work restart in earnest next week.  An amazing summer of long hot days, evenings without bedtime curfews and delicious expanses of family time.  A summer too of sporting achievements; armbands are now permanently consigned to the loft and Harry is confidently afloat and swimming like a fish (albeit a wriggling, giggling one, who is liable to take onboard water in moments of distraction…).

We’ve also had the time to make progress with more of the house redesign and decor, tackling the upstairs rooms a little at a time; so exciting.  And many more projects in the pipeline… but more on that in a minute.

First though, a fun papercraft-and-cake project from this week (combinations don’t come much better than that, surely); a practice-run of ideas for friends who want to have homemade vibrant and fun cupcakes at their seaside wedding instead of a traditional cake.

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I wanted to create the impression of masted sails and chose long wooden barbecue skewers and strips of brightly coloured paper to create the effect.  For the pattern – which reminded me of swirling sea colours but also picked out the pink theme colour of the wedding – I downloaded one of the wonderful free watercolour designs by Yao Cheng for DLF , cropped it into long rectangle shapes and then added some text in Powerpoint (below).  If you don’t need to add writing, I’d just chose a lovely patterned sheet of gift wrap and cut out rectangles of about 2×5 inches.

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I painted each skewer with food colouring; you can do this neat from the bottle or dilute for a more subtle colour.  I left the bottom of the skewers unpainted but of course the beauty of the food colouring is it’s completely non-toxic and safe to be thrust deep into sponge…

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I threaded the paper onto the skewer and then pushed a small pearl bead onto each skewer tip both for decorative effect and to avoid any partygoers accidentally poking themselves in the eye when leaning over to choose their cake.. and also strung a few tiny bells randomly on the mast tops..

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Ta-da; the finished cupcakes!  Easy to produce en masse but equally fun just to make for teatime.

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 In other news… Harry and I have been embarking on a rather more substantial project this month; remember the Parisian Play Shop?  It was well-loved and well-played with for about a year but gradually became a dumping ground for all kinds of toys, books and half-built Lego models.  Whilst the play kitchen is very much still in active use, and acts like a magnet for any little girls who happen to be passing through, the shop seemed to have run its course, so I moved it to the loft to create space and forgot about it.

But then, this summer we stumbled across a pop-up puppet show in the local park – and Harry was absolutely transfixed.  There’s something about the slapstick comedy and audience participation which completely captured his imagination and made him chuckle whenever he thought about it for days afterwards.  So… we’re building a puppet theatre together, where we can stage our own plays at home.  I began by bashing out the top shelf and getting a large hole cut out from the back..

puppet theatre in progress

and finished up…….

starlight puppet theatre DIY

…well, I think we’ll open the theatre officially with a Grand Reveal next week, when our finishing touches are complete. We have some rehearsing to do after all :-)

Have a great weekend when it comes; I’ll be making the most of the last couple of days of lie-ins and sunshine, in-between stitching in name tags and retrieving long-abandoned school kit from corners around the house..

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Quick tricks: Monogram Cake Seals

DIY Fondant cake seals


A quick DIY for you to try this week, and one of those delicious ones which is simple to do but will (hopefully) provoke gasps of admiration from friends when you reveal your efforts. Inspired by seeing little monogrammed patisseries in Paris last year, I experimented by rolling little balls of fondant icing and stamping them with a regular wax seal embosser (most good stationers and craft stores sell these).  I have one with my initial on, so as of today all baked goods emerging from our kitchen will be branded as MINE. Ha! DIY Cake Monograms
You can do this with any store-bought or homemade fondant; I keep an airtight tin of leftover bits from projects like Harry’s pirate ship cake and the Star Wars cookies of last week.  Simply roll little balls and then press the seal into them before gently lifting or peeling off.  Put a dab of cooking oil on the seal first if your fondant is quite sticky.  For these I used a buff coloured fondant and then brushed it with edible gold powder.  the fondant hardens slightly as it dries, making it pretty robust and ensuring that it holds the pattern or monogram beautifully…

DIY gilded fondant cake seals

Monogram cucpakes from katescreativespace

I also made some monograms from red fondant and sprayed them lightly with sparkly lustre spray and used them to decorate some mini raspberry and lemon loaf cakes…

DIY monogram and rose petal loaf cakes

You can keep the monograms for a couple of weeks in an airtight container, and they look gorgeous on all manner of things (envelope cookies, perhaps?).  Harry’s not fussed about the cakes but loves eating just the seals; one per day, as an after-tea treat.  Simple pleasures….

In other news, to highlight the extremes of my life I will be setting aside sugarcraft and tomorrow plunging from a rope into a huge vat of freezing mud, having foolishly entered a local MudRun race; 7.5km with 60 military-style obstacles, in what promises to be torrential rain.  For those who are unfamiliar with such events, this is a typical photo;

JAILBREAK 1 MUD RUN

(I love the sunglasses don’t you?  A sort of triumph of optimism…).  I’ve not done an event like this before – nor, I suspect, will I ever do one again – but Harry is very excited and has promised to cheer me on.  ’Daddy and I will bring you a towel and Daddy says you can take all your clothes off before you get back in the car’.

Have a warmer, dryer, cleaner weekend, wherever you are and whatever you’re doing!

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Halloweenie Cupcakes



It’s been a while since Harry and I whipped ourselves up into a culinary frenzy, so with Halloween soon to be upon us we present to you… Halloweenies!! Our homemade concoction is essentially carrot cupcakes (because we love them), with whipped cream cheese frosting and fondant pumpkins (because you can never pack too many calories into a single cupcake…).

For the Carroty Cupcakes you’ll need;

  • 100g / 3.5 oz self raising flour
  • 100g / 3.5 oz wholemeal self-raising flour
  • 175g / 6 oz muscovado sugar
  • 1tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 2tsp mixed spice
  • 200g / 7 oz grated carrot (about 2 large carrots)
  • zest of 1 orange (or a dash of orange extract if you have already accidentally grated your knuckles by this point and are damned if you’re going to try grating anything else)
  • 2 eggs
  • 175ml of vegetable oil.

Mix all the dry ingredients together, whisk the eggs and oil in a cup and pour in, then sprinkle the carrot over the top.  Stir and fold until you have a delicious, gooey brown mess, then spoon it carefully into a lined muffin tin – we managed to fill 12, with Harry eating about 2 further helpings of ‘leftover’ cake mix. The uncooked batter will be thicker than a traditional cupcake batter, which means you should spill less of it en route to the muffin cases.  Bake these at 180 degrees C / 350 F for about 20 minutes.  Whip them out and they should look a little like this;

Whilst these beauties are cooling, whip up your frosting using 300g cream cheese, 50g softened butter and 200g icing sugar.  Then tackle the fondant pumpkins; I used a pre-coloured orange fondant and rolled out 12 small balls.  Using a toothpick, find a point and press firmly down the side of the ball, rolling it in your hand.  Repeat five times, rotating the ball as you go.  Make a small hole with the point of your toothpick at the top, and then press down lightly to flatten the ball slightly and deepen the grooves you’ve made.  We then added some tiny pine twigs in the top, having boiled them quickly to remove any gremlins first.

As a final touch, I wrapped each Halloweenie in black ribbon and added a Boo! motif; you can download my template at the bottom of this post.

Now, sit back and admire your efforts.  Contemplate inviting friends over to share these then decide, on balance, to eat them one by one until you are entirely unable to move.  Check upper lip for tell-tale smudges of frosting before leaving the house.

Halloweenie BOO Stickers

Whizz-Popping Lemony Cupcakes!



This weekend we had a party to go to; a back garden festival for kids on what turned out to be the hottest day of the year so far.  The kids stayed cool by shedding their clothes at the door and heading straight for the paddling pool; we watched from the shade and provided periodic gasps of awe and praise for their splashy, athletic endeavours.  My contribution to the communal feast was these zingy cupcakes, which I adapted from a basic Hummingbird Bakery recipe.  With a zesty lemon kick, whipped frosting and a sprinkling of explode-on-your-tongue popping candy, they are about as light and summery as cakes can be – and no matter how hot the weather, there’s always a place for cake…

Ingredients (makes 12 cupcakes):

  • 120g plain flour
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 1.5 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tblsp grated lemon zest
  • 40g unsalted butter, softened
  • 120ml whole milk
  • 1 egg

Set the oven to 170c/325f and set to work; place your dry ingredients, zest and butter in a mixer and beat together until sandy in texture, then add in the milk, before following with the egg.  Mix for a further couple of minutes until the mixture is smooth then spoon into cupcake cases, filling them about 2/3 full. Place in the oven for 20-25 minutes until they look like these (below), and in the meantime prepare your frosting…

Whizz-popping lemony frosting:

  • 250g icing sugar
  • 80g unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 tsp Sicilian lemon extract or organic lemon flavouring
  • 25ml whole milk
  • curls of lemon zest for decoration
  • jar of popping candy. Mine was from here.

Beat together the sugar, butter and lemon extract, until fully mixed, then slowly add the milk.  Turn up your mixer to a high speed and beat for around 5mins until the frosting is super-smooth and light.  When the cakes are fully cooled, pipe the frosting onto each and allow to settle for a few minutes before adding the final touches..

I made these simple cake flags using my home printer, coloured paper, cocktail sticks and double-sided tape; place one in each cake and add a couple of swirls of lemon zest (make long strokes with your zester or grater to achieve this).  Finally, add a generous sprinkle of popping candy over the top; as it comes into contact with the cake it will crackle a little (it responds to any moisture), but there’ll still be plenty of pop left for the first mouthful of cake sometime later; if you listen closely enough you can hear it fizz…

Strawberry Cheesecake Cupcakes

The eagle-eyed will have noticed a distinct absence of decadent baking in recent posts, due in no small part to my determination to win our bikini-fit diet race (an alarming thought; my husband in a bikini – let’s hurriedly think of swim shorts).  Well, three weeks have passed and I have to confess that he has won, albeit narrowly. Still, second place is not to be sniffed at, so as he bounces lithely through the kitchen flexing his newly-evident abs, I am turning a blind eye and rewarding myself by baking a batch of these perky beauties (above & below), which after all are, ahem, mostly fruit…

I adapted a recipe from the Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook, substituting their digestive biscuit topping for freeze-dried, crumbled strawberries, and chopping the fruit finely into the sponge mixture for even distribution (the Hummingbird crew like to place strawberries directly into the cupcake cases for a fruity puddle at the base but I find that a bit gloopy for small fingers…).  The cream-cheese frosting offsets the sweetness of the sponge and the end result is a mixture of loveliness which is neither too sugary nor too tart – and just looking at them shining in their jaunty red and pink cups while the kettle boils for an accompanying cup of tea creates a sort of delicious anticipation…

To make the cakes…

Ingredients:

  • 120g plain flour
  • 140g caster sugar
  • 1.5tsp baking powder
  • 40g unsalted butter, softened
  • 120ml milk (they suggest whole milk but I use skim which works fine with less fat)
  • 0.5tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • 12 large strawberries, finely chopped.

Mix together the dry ingredients then pour in the milk and vanilla and blend.  Beat the egg and mix in until well-incorporated.  Finally, fold in your finely chopped strawberries (or drop them into the cupcake cases if you prefer). Bake for 20mins at 170/325 degrees c/f.

And for the frosting…

  • 300g sifted icing sugar
  • 50g unsalted butter
  • 125g cream cheese – use regular not reduced fat; the consistency of the latter is runnier and will affect the end result.
  • Dash of food colouring if desired – gel colour gives a lovely intensity and won’t make the frosting watery
  • freeze dried strawberries, sprinkles or other decorations – whatever takes your fancy!

Beat together the icing sugar and butter (I use my trusty Kitchenaid for this and indeed for all baking), then stir in the cream cheese straight out of the fridge.  I added a dash of red gel food colouring with a toothpick and gave a final blitz with the mixer for a soft pink tone and a hint of raspberry-ripple swirliness.  Pipe or spread onto the cakes when cool and then force yourself to jog around the block for 20mins in order to feel virtuous and entitled when you return… then EAT!

Spring has Sprung

Despite last Thursday bringing a small snowstorm and temperatures of -8 degrees, today it seems that Spring has sprung, with a positively tropical 12 degrees and the gentle thrumming of lawnmowers providing a backdrop to the chirruping chorus of Spring birds. Gosh, it makes one come over all poetic.

After Harry and I had turned off the central heating, shed the thermals and taken a turn around the garden to examine all of the dead, frostbitten and unidentifiable foliage, we retired to the kitchen for a spot of Spring baking.

I bought these silicone cupcake cases from spiritual home Lakeland last year, and ‘runaway cakes’ made using the Hummingbird Bakery’s divine vanilla cupcake recipe have become a firm favourite in our house.  Usually though, they are unadorned or covered in a simple glaze, so today we decided to go the whole hog and hatch a batch of chicks.  The war-torn looking ones have resisted a 2-year old’s attempts to gouge out wings and eyes for an interim power snack.  I am choosing to ignore the fact that today’s post brought a letter from the government advising that under-5s need no added sugar in their diets. Well, quite…

Baked using:

  • Hummingbird bakery vanilla cupcake recipe
  • Classic buttercream icing with a hint of yellow colouring
  • Liquorice eyes
  • Banana candy sweets chopped in half for the wings
  • Coloured royal icing for the beaks and plumage
  • Industrial-grade surface cleaner for the clean-up operation…