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Monday, August 31, 2009

Lemon meringue cupcakes

Lemon meringue cupcakes

After all the cupcaking over the past month, you would think that I would want to take a break from cupcake baking. Erm... nope! After reading Maria's post, lemon meringue cupcakes have been on my "to bake" list for a while... a rather long while, I'm afraid. But I finally got around to it last weekend - and now I wonder why it took me so long!

I started off making the lemon curd, following a recipe that I found on (I have rewritten the overly complicated recipe below – there is enough curd there to make two batches of cupcakes). Next I baked the cupcakes, which is fairly easy, and waited for them to cool before I tackled the meringue. The meringue required a sugar thermometer and a stand mixer to make, but the end result was light, delicate, and delicious. I confess to eating rather a lot of meringue.... erm, let's just say
I was cleaning the beaters prior to washing up. Finally, after I had gorged on enough meringue, the cupcakes were assembled - I cut a small hole in the middle of each one, filled the holes with lemon curd, and then piped the meringue on top. Alastair expertly blow torched the meringue for me (and we won't discuss how he set a couple on fire!).

And the result? Ohmygod! They were amazing - heaven in a mini cake form. The cupcakes were really moist, and delightful with the gooey, sourish lemon curd and sweet fluffy meringue on top. Swoon!

If you like lemon based desserts, try these. It may seem like a lot of effort, but it's totally worth it!

Lemon meringue cupcakes

For the cupcakes, see for the recipe.

Basic lemon curd

Adapted from

2 tsp finely grated lemon rind
½ cup lemon juice
200g caster sugar
3 x 60g eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten
100g unsalted butter, cut into 1cm cubes

This recipe makes more than you’ll need for 12 cupcakes so have a sterilised jar handy for the rest of the lemon curd (if you need instructions for sterilising a jar, go to the original recipe).

Place the lemon juice and sugar in a stainless steel bowl placed over a saucepan of simmering water. Stir to combine.

Pour the eggs through a sieve into a separate bowl, and use a wooden spoon to gently push the egg through.

Add the strained eggs to the juice and sugar mixture. Mix to combine. Bring the water to a gentle simmer and stir the mixture for about 20 minutes or until it thickens and thinly coats the back of the wooden spoon.

Remove the bowl from the pot and add the butter, a couple of pieces at a time, stirring until the butter melts and mixture is combined.

When you have stirred in all the butter, add the lemon rind and pour into sterilised jars. Cool to room temperature before storing in the fridge.

Monday, August 17, 2009

RSPCA Cupcake Day recap

Cupcake Challenge

The Cupcake Bakeoff for the RSPCA Cupcake Day went well at work today. We had a good assortment of cupcakes - along with mine there was also carrot, lemon, banana, and vanilla with different toppings. There was some tough competition from bumblebee cupcakes (see below) but the fondant toppers and the booze in mine got me over the line and I won the bakeoff. Sweet!

Cupcake Challenge

Jennie organised a great event. There was a good variety of cupcakes, and a really good turnout with many people coming from other floors/branches. Most of the cupcakes sold at morning tea time, with the leftovers gradually disappearing by the end of the day.

Cupcake Challenge

And money wise, we raised over $240 for the RSPCA - a good result!

Chocolate Guinness Cupcakes with chocolate whisky ganache and Baileys buttercream

Guinness cupcakes with chocolate whiskey ganache and Baileys buttercream

Hooray! After weeks of practice cupcake baking, the Cupcake Challenge is finally here! (Quick recap - today is the RSPCA Cupcake Day. We are participating at work with a little bake off, with all proceeds going to the RSPCA.)

As soon as I saw these cupcakes on Hold the Beef, I knew immediately that I wanted to make them for the Challenge. Because - well just listen to the description - a chocolate Guinness cupcake, filled with a chocolate and whiskey ganache, and topped with Baileys buttercream... swoon!

Guinness cupcakes with chocolate whiskey ganache and Bailey's buttercream

I baked a practice batch a couple of weeks ago, and discovered that the cupcakes were as delicious as they sounded. You can't taste any alcohol in the cupcakes, but the Guinness does seem to add something that I can't describe. There's no bitterness from the stout - most likely because there's two cups of sugar in the recipe! I've heard chocolate Guinness cake being described as very rich, but in cupcake form it's moist and not at all heavy. The other bonus of the Guinness is that you get more than a cup of liquid in a can, so you can drink the rest while you bake the cupcakes!

Guinness cupcakes with chocolate whiskey ganache and Bailey's buttercream

The middle of the cupcakes are filled with a chocolate whiskey ganache. I know, it couldn't possibly get any more decadent.

Guinness cupcakes with chocolate whiskey ganache and Bailey's buttercream

For the Cupcake Challenge, I also made fondant toppers. I made ducks, penguins, little cupcakes, sheep heads, bunnies and bumblebees. I actually purchased some Playdoh to practice with before making these! Fondant doesn't have exactly the same consistency as Playdoh (it's softer) but I found that practicing with Playdoh still helped a lot.

I was quite pleased with how the fondant toppers turned out - I think my favourites are the sheep heads and maybe the bunnies.

(The toppers aren't on the cupcakes because I didn't want to put them on until the last minute.

So what do you think? Do you reckon I have a fighting chance in the Cupcake Challenge?

Guinness cupcakes with chocolate whiskey ganache and Baileys buttercream

Chocolate Guinness cupcakes with chocolate whiskey ganache and Baileys buttercream

Adapted from Hold the Beef, and originally from Smitten Kitchen

I have adapted some of the measures to metric but not all of them. I know that you're not supposed to have a combination of weight and volume measurements in a recipe, but that's the way I bake. The buttercream recipe is thanks to Maria who has been unbelievably helpful in all things cupcake!

For the cupcakes:

1 cup Guinness
225 grams unsalted butter
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 cups plain flour, sifted
2 cups caster sugar
1 & 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs (I used 3 eggs, as mine were small)
2/3 cup sour cream

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Line 24 cupcake cups with liners. (The first batch of these I baked, I managed to get 28 cupcakes. With the second batch I made larger cupcakes and only got 18.)

In a saucepan, heat the Guinness and unsalted butter until simmering. Turn off the heat and whisk in the cocoa powder until smooth. Set aside to cool slightly.

In a separate bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking soda and salt.

In a mixer, beat together the eggs and sour cream. Add the Guinness mixture, and beat to just combine.

Add the flour mixture, and beat briefly on a slow speed until combined.

Spoon into the cupcake liners, and bake for about 17 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack.

For the ganache:

230 grams good quality dark chocolate, chopped in rough pieces
2/3 cup thickened cream
30 grams butter, room temperature
2 teaspoons Irish whiskey (or more to taste - I used double this quantity and would still have been happy with more!)

Either melt the chocolate and cream in a double boiler, or do what I do and put the chocolate and cream in a microwavable bowl. Microwave in 30 second bursts, stirring between bursts, until melted. Add the butter and whiskey, and stir until combined. Set aside to cool slightly.

Filling the cupcakes:

When the cupcakes are cool, use a small knife and cut cone shaped chunks out of the middle of the cupcakes, making sure that you don't cut all the way to the bottom (the other recipes say to use an apple corer or biscuit cutter but I found it easier to just use a knife). Eat the cupcake middles as you go and remember that the bigger holes you make, the more you get to eat! Spoon the ganache into the cupcake holes and fill them to the top.

For the Baileys buttercream

250 grams unsalted butter, cut into cubes and at room temperature
3 cups sifted icing sugar
2 tablespoons Baileys

Beat the butter in an electric mixer on high until it is very pale and fluffy.

Gradually add the icing sugar (I do this a tablespoon at a time), beating well between additions. Beat until the buttercream is very fluffy - about 5-6 minutes.

Heat the Baileys in the microwave until it's very warm. Add to the butter cream and beat on high for another couple of minutes. Pipe on top of the cupcakes.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Jammy cupcakes

Jammy cupcakes

Another weekend, another batch of practice cupcakes before the Almighty Cupcake Challenge.

The recipe for this batch was adapted from Australian Women’s Weekly “Bake”. They are basically a vanilla cupcake base, with a dollop of jam swirled through the top. For the icing, I thought I’d try a buttercream with the addition of a couple of teaspoons of powdered raspberries.

Erm. Buttercream – I suck at making buttercream. Why? I have no idea! It should be the easiest thing in the world! After putting the buttercream into my piping bag, I realised it was too thick. Back in the mixer it went with a touch of milk. Tried piping again – nope, still too thick. Back into the mixer. It just kept getting worse and worse and worse, until I finally gave up. I ended up melting the buttercream in the microwave and then spooning it over the cupcakes like a glaze. This actually worked quite well, although it was a pain in the arse wiping the drips off the cupcake liners.

Jammy cupcakes

And the cupcake itself? Unfortunately I didn’t think much of it – I thought it was too dry. Fortunately the recipe, which I'm not posting because I didn't like it, only made a dozen cupcakes.

But while this batch of cupcakes wasn't a success, I still learnt something from making them. All this cupcake baking has meant that I finally "get" the whole cupcake thing. Before I'd never really understood why people were so obsessed by cupcakes, but now I get it! Cupcakes are fun (even when everything goes wrong and your buttercream is shit and the cupcakes are dry and boring).

The Almighty Cupcake Challenge is finally happening next Monday. The weekend before last, I baked a test batch of the cupcakes I’m going to make for the Challenge – and wow they are good! I won't post them until next weekend so you'll have to wait and see (don't want to give my almost twin any ideas..... aye, J?)

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Lemon and poppy seed cookies

Lemon and poppy seed cookies

I’m a bit of a sucker for kitchen gadgets and kitchen tools. Some would say that all you need is a good saucepan and a good knife, but I like my kitchen stuff. One of my favourite kitchen things is a microwave steamer for steaming vegetables in. I love this thing so much that when we bought a new microwave, I made sure that the steamer fit first! (Yes, yes, I know that you can steam vegetables on top of the stove but with this I don’t need to drag out a pot and pan and take up a hob – plus it takes four minutes in the microwave.)

Last weekend I was keen to make cookies (or biscuits if you prefer) and I wanted to use my cookie press, just one of my many kitchen gadgets. When I was looking up cookie recipes online, I decided that I wanted to do something with lemon and poppy seeds. After some searching, I found a simple recipe for cookie press cookies that I was able to adapt.

They were pretty easy to put together but it did take me a while to get all the cookies pressed out and baked..... because I ended up with about 80 of the little buggers! I tried out several different shapes - the hearts tended to lose their shape but I found that the flower shapes faired better.

But presentation isn't as important as taste, and the verdict? They were awesome! The cookies were buttery and crisp, but kind of melted in the mouth. They had just the right amount of sweetness, were rather lemony, and the poppy seed added a bit of savouriness. Oh my, they were moreish. I found it really, really difficult to eat only one... One day I came home after work and found myself eating six in a row. Gulp! Cookies are a sometime food, people.

Note – if you don’t have a cookie press, I think it would work if you rolled the dough into small balls and flattened them. But if you love kitchen stuff like me, you might have a cookie press too?!

Lemon and poppy seed cookies

Lemon and poppy seed cookies

Adapted from this recipe.

Makes about 80 small cookies

225 grams butter, softened
1/3 cup caster sugar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
Finely grated rind of a lemon
2 tablespoons poppy seeds
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups flour, sifted

Preheat your oven to 200°C.

Cream the butter until pale and fluffy. Gradually add the sugar and beat until well combined. Mix in the egg, vanilla essence, lemon rind, poppy seeds and salt. Gradually add the sifted dry ingredients and mix until combined.

Fill a cookie press and shape on to an ungreased cookie sheet. If you don't have a cookie press, roll the dough into small balls and flatten with a fork or your hand.

Bake until golden brown - my cookies were small so I baked them for six minutes. If you have larger cookies, bake them for longer.

Transfer to a wire rack and let them cool completely.

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