Thursday, March 25, 2010

These Cupcakes Not To Be Taken Internally...

...because they're jewellery!

I have for some time now been admiring (and wanting) various items of cupcake-themed jewellery on various websites. Unfortunately, whilst many of the actual items are reasonably priced, the postage charged by a lot of websites (when they're shipping to Australia) is a killer.

But I was thinking about it the other day, and I thought "you know, the ones you really like the best are the ones made out of polymer clay. Why not make them yourself?" So I did.

It was actually great fun - way easier to work with than sugarpaste! My daughter also loved playing with the clay - you can see her elephant and her "cake" to the right of mine.

For a first attempt, and considering I didn't have any proper pliers, I think my new earrings are not too bad! : ) Hmm.... homemade Christmas presents???

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Cupcake Hero (Caramel) - Vote Now!

Remember those salted caramel chocolate cupcakes I told you about a couple of weeks ago? You know, in my very last post?

Well anyway, there's a very cool competition over at I Heart Cuppycakes, called Cupcake Hero - and these little packages of salty-caramelly-chocolatey goodness are my very first entry! The theme was caramel. And let me tell you, there are some awesome entries... There are also some awesome prizes, which you can read about here.

But the thing is, it's all kinda pointless without YOU - yes, YOU!! (now don't you feel kind of all-powerful??) See, the big question, "who will be this month's Cupcake Hero?", will be partly decided by an online vote - and we'd all love it if you would join in! Just go to the I Heart Cuppycakes blog, and look at the right-hand sidebar. By all means, do what your tastebuds tell you - but of course I'd love it if you thought my cupcakes were worthy of your vote! : )

The poll closes March 21 - so get voting! And may the yummiest cupcake win...

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Salted Caramel Chocolate Cupcakes

I was browsing through all my favourite cakey-type blogs the other day, and was inspired by this month's Cupcake Hero theme over on I Heart Cuppycakes - the theme is caramel - mmm...

Now, if I have one complaint with caramel (and I usually don't), it's that it can be a little too sweet sometimes. Enter the solution - salted caramel! Yum yum - I love this stuff - the salt just gives it that little twang that brings out the caramel flavour and acts as a foil to all that sugar.

My favourite partner for caramel is, of course, chocolate. So I adapted the wonderful mud cake recipe from my Planet Cake book - the main tweak I wanted was to get some brown sugar and vanilla into the cake itself, in the hopes of mirroring the flavour of the caramel a little. I also cut the sugar down a little to compensate for the extra sweetness of the caramel.

The buttercream recipe is my own, and the caramel recipe is an amalgamation of several recipes I found in books and online. I let my caramel get a little darker than I normally would before adding the butter, so that it would have a strong caramel flavour that would not be lost when added to the buttercream.

So without further ado, here is my first ever Cupcake Hero entry:

Salted Caramel Chocolate Cupcakes

Salted Toffee Shards & Praline
100g caster sugar
3/4 tsp salt

Sort-of-Caramelised Chocolate Mud Cake
220g butter
220g dark chocolate
200g brown sugar
125 self-raising flour
125g plain flour
50g cocoa
1 tsp baking powder
200g caster sugar
4 eggs
30mL vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla extract

Salted Caramel
200g caster sugar
100mL water
100g salted butter, chopped
2 tsp salt (preferably a good quality flaked sea salt, eg Maldon)
50mL cream

Salted Caramel Buttercream
250g salted butter
250g icing sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Salted caramel to taste (probably about half a cup? 3/4 cup maybe? Sorry, I didn't measure this...)

For the Shards & Praline: Line a tray with baking paper and oil it very lightly so that the toffee won't stick to it. Heat the sugar in a heavy based saucepan over a medium heat, until the edges are melting and beginning to turn brown. Stir gently using a heat-proof spatula/spoon until sugar dissolves, then leave sugar to cook until it turns a beautiful dark amber. Quickly stir the salt in, then immediately pour the toffee onto the prepared tray & tilt it to let the toffee spread into a thin layer. When toffee has cooled completely, break it into shards - with any luck you will get some lovely interesting shapes - I quite like it if they're all different; it gives each cupcake its own little personality! Set aside one good-sized shard for each cupcake, and crush the remaining toffee to make praline.

For the cake: Preheat oven to 160C. Combine butter, chocolate, brown sugar and 160mL water in a saucepan and heat over a low heat until all are melted.
Sift flours, cocoa and baking powder into a large bowl. Add caster sugar and mix together.
Whisk eggs, oil and vanilla lightly together, and then add to the flour mixture, along with the chocolate mixture. Stir until smooth.
Divide mixture evenly amongst 36 cupcake papers (I use papers with a base diameter of about 4.5cm - if you use a different size you will obviously get a different number of cupcakes). Bake until cakes test clean (around 20-25 minutes).

For the caramel: Combine sugar and water in a saucepan. Stir over a medium heat until all the sugar has dissolved, then allow to cook undisturbed. Brush off any sugar crystals that form on the sides of the saucepan with a wet pastry brush from time to time. When caramel reaches a dark amber colour, add the butter and salt, and stir to combine. Add the cream, remove from heat and stir to combine.
Whilst the cupcakes are still warm, dip each one's top into the warm caramel, shake off the drips and set aside to cool completely. Put caramel in the fridge to cool completely before adding to buttercream.

For the buttercream: Cream butter and icing sugar together until very pale. Add the vanilla and about half a cup of cool caramel; beat until combined. Add more caramel to taste if required, and beat until combined.

Put buttercream into a piping bag with a large nozzle. Add a swirl of buttercream to each cupcake, insert a shard of toffee into each one, and sprinkle each with some of the praline.

Et voila!

Now that I've written this, it all sounds terribly complicated, but in actual fact it wasn't difficult at all. There are a lot of steps, but most of them aren't very time-consuming.
The end result? Rich, decadent - but without being too sickly-sweet. I'm crediting the salt for that. Yummm... I will definitely be making these again!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Kidney Donation (with a difference...)

Okay, so I know these are kind of weird cookies.

But one of my most gorgeous friends was diagnosed a while ago with cancer on one of her kidneys, and as a result she has recently had the affected kidney removed. Now, she and her children have long been fans of my cookies, so I thought they would be a nice little gift for the family upon my friend's return from hospital. Oh, did I mention the lady has a sense of humour? So I gave her a dozen of these:-

They thought they were hilarious.

Luckily, the cancer was not an aggressive type, and it would appear that it was all removed successfully during the operation - hooray! So this post goes to my dear friend - you know who you are - we are all wishing you the speediest recovery ever, sweetheart!

(oh, and on a technical note, unfortunately this is NOT the most photogenic of the kidney cookies - all the good ones got wrapped up in the gift box before I remembered to take a pic - sigh!)

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