Thursday, 29 October 2009

Reminder: Iron Cupcake London Challenge VI - SPICE

Just a reminder that our sixth - yes, sixth! - challenge takes place on Monday 2nd November at The Cuban Citypoint.

There's still time to create a prize-winning spice themed cupcake, so why not dust off your baking tins and produce something magical? The more the merrier!

If you're interested click here for all the details.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Peach and raspberry traybake

I know this isn’t exactly seasonal but I fancied something that had a little bit of summer about it; luckily I also have a long-standing fondness for tinned peaches.

This dish works well as a companion to a cup of tea or as a dessert. I made two – one for the CCBF (Caked Crusader’s Boyfriend) which we had a slice of at room temperature with thick cream, and one for family Sunday lunch dessert which we had warm with custard. I recommend both! It’s squidgier warm and firmer cool but both textures are pleasing – I think that’s because the addition of ground almond always gives a bit of va va voom to a cake!

Here it is as an afternoon tea cake:

Here it is as a dessert - maybe because I've eaten it both ways I can see that the warm version looks a little softer and crumblier; not sure the photos prove it though:

Both ways of serving highlight the soft sweetness of the peaches. I love tinned peaches – all the work is done for you and the slices are perfect and smooth; they are one of the few fruits where I prefer using tinned to fresh – actually, thinking about it, they are possibly the only one. Any other suggestions where you prefer using the tinned fruit to fresh?

The sweet peach works well with the slightly tart raspberry and the almond adds subtle richness.


250g unsalted butter
300g golden caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 eggs
200g self raising flour
50g ground almonds
4 ripe peaches (or use tinned peaches), cut into slices
100g raspberries
handful of flaked almonds

To serve: your choice of ice cream, custard or cream


- Preheat the oven to 180˚C/160˚C fan/350˚F/gas mark 4

- Grease and line a traybake tin or roasting tin measuring 20cm x 30cm

- Melt the butter in a saucepan over a low heat. Cool for 5 minutes.

- Stir in the sugar, vanilla and eggs then beat until smooth.

- Stir in the flour and ground almonds.

- Tip the mix into the prepared tin and scatter the raspberries over the top – push them into the batter a little to stop them burning.

- Lay the peach slices evenly on the top and scatter the flaked almonds over the them.

- Bake for anything from 1 hour to 1 hour 20 minutes and cover with foil after 40 minutes if the top is cooking too quickly i.e. turning dark brown – mine didn’t need this.

- When a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out only a little squidgy, remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tin. The cake firms as it cools.

- Serve either warm for dessert with custard or ice cream, or at room temperature with whipped cream.

- You can bake a day in advance and reheat when required – cover with foil and bake on a low temperature just to warm it through; you don’t want it steaming hot.

- Bask in the glory of the wonderful thing you have created.

- Eat.

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Nutmeg and custard cream biscuits

This is the recipe that leaped out at me from Marcus Wareing’s new book “Nutmeg and Custard”. Originally I planned to make only the biscuits to accompany a crème brulee dessert but then I figured that if I just made more biscuits I could sandwich some as per this recipe.

Creme brulee is an amazing dessert and you can find the recipe here.

This was my plan – to use the biscuits for scooping up crème brulee. It was a very good plan, if I say so myself:

Originally I intended to roll the biscuit dough out and use a cutter but it’s far too short to be able to do that – these biscuits are buttery! You have to make a sausage of the dough and chill it...

....before cutting into discs:

These never hardened to crisp biscuits, I think they’re just too buttery to do that. They are like extremely crumbly rich shortbread and quite beautiful!

When I tasted the buttercream as I was making it, I wasn’t that impressed as the use of custard powder made it grainy in a way that I couldn’t beat out. However, when sandwiched between the biscuits it was divine. It’s not a filling that I would use in other ways though i.e. on top of a cake – it’s best between biscuits.


For the biscuits:
150g unsalted butter, at room temperature
40g icing sugar
2 tablespoons custard powder
165g plain flour
1 grated nutmeg

For the custard cream filling:
80g unsalted butter, at room temperature
75g icing sugar
2 tablespoons custard powder


- Line a large baking tray with either baking paper or non-stick foil.

- Start by making the biscuit dough: Cream together the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy.

- Stir in the flour and custard powder until a dough forms – this will be sticky and extremely soft.

- On a sheet of clingfilm roll the dough into a sausage shape approximately 4cm in diameter.

- Wrap in the clingfilm and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

- Preheat the oven to 165°C/fan oven 145°C/325°F/Gas mark 3.

- Cut the chilled dough into 24 slices (well, this is what you’re aiming for but I only got about 16) and lay them on the baking sheet. They will expand a bit on baking so place them about 1.5cm apart. Use two baking sheets if necessary.

- Grate the nutmeg all over the biscuits.

- Bake for 15-20 minutes until the biscuits are golden.

- Leave the biscuits to cool on the tray – they are very soft on coming out of the oven.

- Now make the filling: beat all the ingredients together until smooth and well combined.

- When the biscuits are cold sandwich them together with the filling.

- Store for up to three days in an airtight tin.

- NB. You can also have the biscuits, without the filling, as an accompaniment to a dessert such as crème brulee

- Bask in the glory of the wonderful thing you have made.

- Eat.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Iron Cupcake London: Challenge VI – Spice

Are your cupcakes up to the challenge? Are you worthy of the Iron Cupcake Winner’s rosette and the acclaim that comes with it? There’s only one way to find out…..

Requirements: Make a minimum of 12 cupcakes that interpret the theme of spice in any way you wish – if you can make more please do…the more you make, the more people can taste your delicious creation (and vote for you!)

Please feel free to enter as many types of cupcake as you wish, I only ask that you have at least 12 of each.

On the night everyone will have a say in declaring the winner, who walks away with the ICL Winner’s rosette plus a cupcake themed goody bag (presented in the much-coveted ICL bag!).

As our bakers are special people their votes count three times more than the eaters’ votes plus – starting this month – bakers go FREE! That’s right, only eaters now pay the £5 entry fee.

Please let me know if you plan to enter the competition so we can gauge numbers – thanks.

Event details:

Monday 2nd November 2009

6.00pm – 9.00pm

Venue – The Cuban Bar, Citypoint, One Ropemaker Street, EC2Y 9AY

For a map click here

Although the address is Ropemaker Street it’s actually on the Citypoint plaza. Just behind the Moorgate tube station entrance that’s in the row of shops including HMV, Hotel Chocolat, Eat and Clinton Cards, you’ll see a very tall building. That’s the Citypoint Tower. Head towards it and you’ll see a paved plaza-type area. Near the base of the tower you will see a small newsagent kiosk and a Costa, to the left of these (if looking at the tower) are The Rack & Tenter, then Prets. Head towards Prets into a covered walkway at the base of City point. This is where the Cuban bar is. We’ll be in the basement.

Entry fee for eaters: £5 (Entry fee includes tea or coffee). Bakers enter for FREE!

Timetable of events:

6.00-6.45pm – Entries are labelled and plated up

6.45 onwards – Eating and voting commences

This is the amazing main prize for November – a FIVE tier cupcake stand! It’s remarkably versatile and you can use it with just two of the tiers or all five for a more formal event such as a wedding. Here are two photos showing it in use formally and more casually. It looks just as great in both

Of course, both the winner and runner up will receive other prizes too plus their rosettes.

Incidentally, The Caked Crusader and, consequently, ICL are now on Facebook and Twitter. Why not befriend Samantha Cake on Facebook – it’s me!!!! And then become a fan of the Caked Crusader page. We will be using this to post news of upcoming events, have discussions, in fact anything fun involving cake. To make it even easier here’s a link. On Twitter you can find me as CakedCrusader. So there’s no excuse not to stay in touch.

As the event expands it has become necessary for us to set out some disclaimers relating to the event namely that, as we are hosts of the event and don’t actually oversee any of the baking, we take people at their word as to the ingredients of the cupcakes and the environment in which they are prepared. It is unlikely that any entries are prepared in nut-free kitchens and anyone with allergies or intolerances should bear that in mind. Similarly, if an entrant tells us that an entry is vegan-friendly we believe them – feel free to chat to them on the night before sampling if you have any concerns.Your entry fee entitles you to free tea and coffee. Of course you can also sample all the cupcakes, for which we accept no liability.

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Apple and sultana cake

Sometimes you just get a hankering for a flavour and I’ve had apple cake on my mind all week – I think it’s something to do with Autumn; for me the season of mellow mists and fruitfulness epitomises apples. Here it is in the very brief moment of late afternoon sun that we got today:

This is a Scandinavian apple cake recipe but I’ve tweaked it and replaced some of the apple with sultanas. Apple and sultana is one of my all-time favourite combinations; it also helps that there’s a bit of cinnamon in there too. The cake reminds me of a much lighter and apple-y bread pudding.

I’ve used Granny Smith apples as I like their tartness in a cake – they contrast nicely with the sugar and stop the result being too sweet. They also hold their shape well and brown slower than other kinds of apple on peeling. While you can stop apples browning with some lemon juice, regular readers will know my aversion to lemon so I leave my apples au natural and just cut them at the last minute.

From the minute I devised this cake, I was unwavering that I would serve it with clotted cream. It works so well. The cake is flexible (no, it doesn’t do pilates) and can be served warm for dessert with ice cream or custard or at room temperature with a cup of tea and some clotted cream.

Unpretentious, rustic and utterly delicious – this cake screams Autumn and I could happily eat it every day (including Winter, Spring and Summer)!

I was chatting to my friend Jasmin this week and the conversation turned to how we would go about building our ‘perfect world’. As with most of our discussions, it took about 20 seconds for the conversation to turn to food (she is one of the few people I know who is as obsessed with eating cake as I am). Jasmin decided that in her perfect world cake would have the nutritional benefit and calorific content of vegetables and celery would be the highest fat content food. In Jasmin’s world you would get your “five a day” by having to eat five different pieces of cake. I think we need to get some sort of petition going to make Jasmin the ruler of the universe….

This will be one of my “five a day”:


225g unsalted butter, at room temperature
200g caster sugar
3 eggs
280g plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
Pinch of salt
5 apples, peeled and cored – I used Granny Smiths
150g sultanas (if you wish to leave these out you can, but add an extra apple to the batter i.e. 6 in total)
3 tablespoons golden caster sugar, for sprinkling

To serve: ice cream, custard, whipped cream, clotted cream – take your pick!


- Preheat the oven to 180°C/fan oven 160°C/350°F/Gas mark 4.

- Line a 20cm springform round tin with baking paper.

- Cream together the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy.

- Add the eggs a little at a time and add some of the flour if the mixture starts to curdle.

- Gently stir in the flour, baking powder and cinnamon.

- Cut 2 of the apples into small cubes – about the size of a raisin.

- Stir into the batter along with the sultanas. If you’re not using sultanas stir 3 chopped apples into the batter.

- Spoon into the prepared tin and level the surface.

- Take the remaining three apples and slice.

- Arrange the slices on top of the cake and then sprinkle with the golden caster sugar.

- Bake for approximately 45 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean. Mine took 1 hour and 10 minutes but I was baking two at the same time and this always extends the baking time required.

- Leave to cool in the tin until cool enough to handle safely.

- Remove from the tin and leave to cool completely on a wire rack.

- The cake will keep well in an airtight tin for several days.

- Serve either warm with ice cream or custard, or at room temperature with cream.

- Bask in the glory of the wonderful thing you have made.

- Eat.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Iron Cupcake London – Challenge V: Booze

A picture paints a thousand words and I think that the smiling faces of our winners (above) show that our first outing at The Cuban Citypoint was a cracking night! Great cupcakes, great people and – I’m sure those of you who partook will agree – great cocktails! Even Van Gogh’s ear made an appearance….it was that kind of night! Our new venue is so roomy that it's impossible to get everyone in one photo...

Our 19 entries raided the drinks’ cupboard tantalising our taste buds with beverages ranging from Guinness to Southern Comfort stopping off at Malibu, Baileys and Cider on the way! Rum was the most used spirit but each time it was used in such a different way that it didn’t feel samey. Here are just some of the entries snaking around the bar:

We tweaked the voting a little this time (we aim to make continuous improvements to the competition to ensure that the outcome is fair) so that baker’s votes carried more weight – each baker’s vote counted for 3 to ensure that the winner was the best cupcake on the night. Tough decisions had to be made:

Here's the light snack that I tucked into along with two's a tough life:

Without further ado here are our podium finishers:

Winner – Melissa’s Grown up Jaffa cakes with triple sec

Melissa – a debutant to ICL - won on the night. What we didn’t tell anyone until the result was announced was that her entry was vegan-friendly. Melissa isn’t a vegan herself but her friend is and she missed not being able to go for coffee and cakes with her…so went about creating vegan-friendly cupcakes!

This cupcake was light and moist and had little chunks of chocolate (possibly orange too) in the sponge. Unless I imagined it, the frosting sat upon a thin layer of marmalade which added a squidginess to the buttercream (I’m calling it that although obviously it didn’t have butter in it). Special thanks to Melissa for coming along seeing as the event coincided with her 7th wedding anniversary…I guess I should thank her husband too for appreciating just how important cupcakes are!

Well done Melissa and good luck at defending the title next month.

Runner up – Fiona’s Mojito cupcakes

Fiona’s cupcake replicated the delicious mojito cocktail in sponge form. Mojitos are a lovely mix of rum and lime with a dash of fresh mint; they cleanse and refresh the palate whilst giving a good kick from the rum. What impressed me most about these was the mint flavour – because it was so obviously fresh mint but I couldn’t see where it was! Normally mint in baking is a little synthetic but the freshness here really made a difference. Fiona has just started a college course in cake decoration but, as you can see from the photo, she’s already pretty darned good!

Joint third place – Amanda’s Brandy brulee cupcakes

Amanda is our most decorated Iron Cupcaker with a first place and two third places to her credit. This alcoholic version of a crème brulee was delicious – the sponge was so moist (thanks to the brandy syrup brushed over it) that some people questioned whether it was indeed sponge! The creamy custard topping was indulgent and worked beautifully with the little curly brandy snap on top.

Joint third place – Natalie’s Malibu and coconut cupcakes

Natalie’s debut entry at ICL scored highly with everyone – for me, it was the lovely texture of the coconut packed sponge that was the treat! The smooth creamy frosting was indulgent and topped with glitter that made it feel like you were eating something precious. The Malibu was nicely judged and came through subtly.

So, those were the cupcakes that scored highest on the night but which would you pick? To help you decide here are all the other entries:

Robyn’s Dark and Stormy cupcakes

Another debutant, Robyn recreated the rum and ginger cocktail and stayed true to her Bermudian roots by using Black Seal rum. The cupcake was flecked with little chunks of ginger and the heat of the rum came through gradually. A beautiful balance of two of my favourite flavours.

Robyn’s Apple cider cupcakes

These cupcakes were packed with flavour and juiciness from the cider – divine! Dave (the man you can thank for taking the wonderful photos of your creations!) described them as having a lovely “apple finish”. Once we’d finished mocking him for coming over all Jilly Goolden we had to agree that he was right. I think the frosting contained sour cream as it had an acidic sharpness that worked so well with the cider.

Amanda’s Rum and raisin cupcakes

Amanda found a new fan in one of The Cuban barmen – when we left he came running after us asking where he could buy these! So, Amanda, if you get someone contacting you asking for a vast quantity of these it could well be him! I felt slightly intoxicated merely sniffing these for they were extremely boozy. No wonder, as Amanda soaked the raisins for FOUR DAYS! The raisins were not only in the sponge but also the frosting and I loved the texture it added to the creamy frosting – it was a very nice idea.

Katy’s Mint Bailey’s chocolate chip cupcakes

The mint flavour came through first and then was replaced by the warming Bailey’s. Bailey’s is a strange drink to me as I would never drink it but love it in baked items. The crisp chocolate drizzled on top of the cake added an extra hit of chocolate and texture.

Mitsu’s Drunken Bakewell cupcake with amaretto

Mitsu’s baking is vegan-friendly without compromising on flavour. Amaretto was the perfect flavour to add to the almond packed Bakewell and it worked so well as you got the hit of almond but then it built in flavour as the amaretto kicked in. A lovely combination of juicy flavours and juicy texture.

Mitsu’s Comfy plum with Southern Comfort cupcake

I have never come across Southern Comfort used in baked goods before so thanks for educating me Mitsu! The frosting was whipped and smooth and heavenly to eat and the combination of plum and Southern Comfort was inspired. In truth, I’m not sure I’d know this contained booze…until I fell off my seat intoxicated! If there’s a cuter name for a cupcake than “Comfy Plum” then I haven’t heard it – I have visions of a plum propped up on cushions on a chaise longue!

Nikki’s Chocolate and Bailey’s cupcake

The intense chocolate flavour came through first – all the eaters around me loved the way Nikki had kept the chocolate dark and semi bitter. The Bailey’s came through the cocoa and provided a background warmth. This was a grown up cupcake with rich and intense flavours.

Rebecca’s Caipirinha cupcake

As someone who has enjoyed a refreshing Caipirinha on more than one occasion, I can vouch that these were spot on! Caipirinha is the national cocktail of Brazil and contains cachacha (a rum type spirit), lime and sugar. Rebecca’s cupcakes were vibrant and refreshing which is a credit to them as they’d apparently had to attend a meeting on their way to the contest. I’m assuming that it was Rebecca who added the input to the meeting and they were just sitting around but I’m willing to be corrected…..

Kat’s Absinthe cupcakes aka Van Gogh’s Last Cupcake

Now when I see 12 cupcakes each claiming to be topped with Van Gogh’s ear I automatically assume that 11 are fakes. But maybe he was like sharks with their teeth and kept re-growing it? I think I’m digressing… was impossible to get near these cupcakes without being able to guess their flavour – they screamed absinthe! The flavour was intense and the alcohol made the sponge mega-moist. Full marks for the decoration too Kat; you’re the first person to put an ear on a cupcake for ICL!

Mara’s Chocolate and rum cupcakes

These were as rich and deep as the glossy chocolate topping suggests. My fellow-taster Jasmin described these perfectly as tasting like chocolate truffles but in cupcake form. The little pecan decoration was not only pretty but also added an extra texture…not that I got it as Dave leaped in and nabbed it happy with his good fortune!

Lynda’s Guinness and chocolate cupcakes

This cupcake is a great example of why I love ICL so much. I would never drink Guinness and would never select a cake containing Guinness…and more fool me because this was up there as one of my favourites of the night. I love having my preconceptions turned upside down. This cupcake was rich and smooth and the Guinness wasn’t pronounced but added incredible depth to the chocolate – it’s just one of those combinations that works!

Kelly’s Orange Creamsicle cupcake

I consider myself a cocktail aficionado but have never had a Creamsicle. A quick glance at google told me that it contains vodka, cointreau/triple sec, orange juice and cream…what’s not to love? The enticing orange glow of the frosting was matched by the aroma – gosh, I wish you could smell it! The initial taste was all orange but then the cointreau came through and provided some lovely warmth in the back of your throat.

Kayla’s Limoncello cupcake

This struck me as the companion cupcake to Kelly’s orange cupcake shown above…well, Kelly and Kayla are sisters so it makes sense! Kayla balanced this very well as the lemon was sweet enough to appease me (I don’t like tart lemon) yet tart enough to please the lemon lovers. The sponge and frosting were both tangy and citrus-y and most refreshing.

Melissa’s Black forest gateau cupcake with kirsch

Melissa, our winning baker on the night, spoiled us with a further two entries! Anyone who tasted this cupcake would not need to be told that it contained kirsch – you couldn’t really miss it! Wow did it have a kick! The sour cherry added juiciness to the sponge and the cupcake was as rich as you’d want a good gateau to be…and, like her winning entry it was vegan-friendly.

Melissa’s Pina colada cupcake with dark rum

Melissa put some jam between the frosting and the cake which adds a lovely extra texture to each bite. There were also little chunks of pineapple and flakes of coconut which created the lovely tropical flavour sensation of a good pina colada. Again, just for the doubters, it was 100% vegan-friendly!

Now you’ve seen all the entries you’ll understand what a tough job it was picking out only three to vote for.

The voting slips on the night come to me and I tally them up to find the winner. Some people write little notes on their voting slips and I feel it only right to pass on two observations that were made:

  1. “Every entry was absolutely nice and great”. I love that – they weren’t just nice, they were absolutely nice. Couldn’t have put it better myself!
  2. “More vegan-friendly entries please.” Over to you, lovely bakers.

Special thanks to Paul (who greets you all and ‘stickers you up’), Jasmin (who plated up the cupcakes with such aplomb) and Dave (who takes all the lovely photos you see in this post) – I am merely Dogtanian to your three Muskehounds!

Boring copyright bit: all photos are the property of Dave Shipman and are reproduced with his kind permission. If you wish to use one of his photos please contact us first and then ensure that you credit the photo to him.

Thanks to everyone who came along and helped us settle into our new venue – The Cuban at Citypoint. Hope to see you all again on 2nd November for our SPICE night!