Sunday, 27 June 2010

Strawberry and clotted cream other World Cup fun

I knew I was taking a gamble in leaving England World Cup cupcakes until the weekend after the first round but luckily England bucked up their ideas and these cakes remain topical (I knew I had to make them before their first knock out match though!!!).

However, whilst putting this post up England have been knocked out (it’s a fast changing world...) so these are now England memorial cupcakes.

It’s a bumper time for sports fans, what with Wimbledon also in full flow, so I wanted to pick a cupcake that couldn’t be any more English even if it donned a pearly hat and coat and started going on about tea and crumpets.
What could be more English than strawberries and clotted cream?

The yoghurt makes this a mega-light sponge and it domes nicely making a lid to keep all the strawberry and creamy goodness in situ! The almond adds moisture and a little more interest than a normal plain sponge. A nice dollop of jam goes into the cupcake first:

Then it's topped with clotted cream – surely England’s greatest gift to the world?

Far more pleasing than football!

Now I must digress slightly….there is a tradition in my family – OK, so it only started with the last World Cup but all traditions have to start somewhere – that I make World Cup footballer biscuits.
Unfortunately I didn’t have my blog last time round and hadn’t acquired the somewhat obsessive habit of photographing everything I made, but let me tell you that my Ronaldinho biscuit was so lifelike it was frightening. I think you can tell from the artistry of this years’ haul what a talent I have for this…they could practically be team photos. Here is a selection of my artistry along with little Vuvuzela Bouffle – my lovely little knitted dog, purchased during the world cup:

I used my favourite biscuit recipe but used almond extract instead of vanilla, just for a change– the recipe can be found

Now I am by no means a football fan – in fact, rather the opposite but the World Cup is hard to ignore. What struck me this year is the absence of standout personalities or looks. I’ve picked a selection of players:

Here’s Ashley Cole with his mobile phone sending a last minute text before kick off. I wonder what he’s sending?

Thierry Henry with a ball…on his hand…surely he should be scoring with his feet? (this one is me showing solidarity with all my Irish readers).

Wayne Rooney seems to have been Mr Angry in this contest – you can sense the rage coming off him in this snap:

Peter Crouch suffered quite a severe injury in transit – his head fell off. Mind you, for most footballers that wouldn’t be as serious as a leg injury!

Poor Didier Drogba didn’t let a broken arm stop him from joining in the football (and biscuit) fun:

Finally a tribute to a man who, not only has the best name in the World Cup, but possibly the world – step forward Chile’s Waldo Ponce:


For the sponge:
175g golden caster sugar
140g self raising flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
100g ground almonds
150ml natural yoghurt
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
175g unsalted butter, melted

For the filling:
Strawberry jam
Clotted cream


Preheat the oven to 190˚C/fan 170˚C/ 375˚F/gas mark 5.

Line a cupcake pan with paper cases – these are big cupcakes so avoid using shallow cases.

Place the sugar, flour, baking powder and ground almonds in a bowl and stir together.

In a separate bowl beat together the yoghurt, eggs and vanilla – don’t whisk them too much, just so they’re nicely combined.

Make a well in the middle of the dry mixture and pour in the yoghurt mix and melted butter.

Fold in with a metal spoon until just combined – don’t overwork it.

Spoon into the cases; they will be quite full.

Bake for approximately 18-20 minutes of until a skewer inserted into the cakes comes out clean.

Leave to cool in the tin for 5 minutes before removing and leaving to cool completely on a wire rack.

At this stage the cakes will keep for 3 days in an airtight container.

Either cut the tops off the cupcakes or use a corer to remove some of the middle of the sponge – it depends purely on which look you prefer.

Spoon a generous helping of jam onto the sponge followed by a generous spoonful of clotted cream.

Top with a strawberry and replace the sponge lid (if you haven’t already eaten it – cook’s perks!)

Once made up the cakes must be kept refrigerated.

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


Sunday, 20 June 2010

Father’s day cake – Guinness cake

Picking a cake for the CCD (Caked Crusader’s Da) is always tricky – he’s definitely my toughest customer!
He struggles with anything too sweet; the definition of “struggles” in this context is a strange array of squeaks and hiccups whilst muttering “too sweet” in between gasps for air. So that rules out anything with buttercream or icing.

The CCD is rather partial to fruit cake and a drop of the hard stuff, but I seem to have exhausted all the fruit cakes using brandy and rum – it was time for something different:

Many Guinness cake recipes team it with chocolate but I feared this would induce hiccupping and – trust me – it’s best avoided!

This cake is adapted from a Mark Hix recipe, the original of which can be found
I removed the zest (can’t abide zest in things) then added sultanas and a sugar topping. The photo of the cake looked a little dry so I added an extra egg and found I also needed a tiny bit more Guinness to get it to the wet batter I desired. Even with those additions it was still a light and crumbly cake. The sugar crust topping worked particularly well:

I didn’t tell my eaters what the ‘mystery’ ingredient was – they narrowed it down to something beery but no one guessed Guinness. The Guinness adds depth of flavour and almost a tang to the cake but isn’t that strong irony taste that you experience when you drink it. I don’t like drinking Guinness but I could eat this cake all day long!

Happy fathers’ day CCD!


450g self raising flour
225g caster sugar
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon mixed spice
1 teaspoon cinnamon
225g unsalted butter, cold and cut into cubes
170g sultanas
2 eggs
150ml Guinness, plus extra if needed

For the topping: 2 tablespoons Demerara sugar


Preheat the oven to 160˚C/fan oven 140˚C/320˚F/gas mark 3.

Line a 20cm round springform tin with baking paper, ensuring that the paper comes a good 4-5cm above the height of the tin.

Mix together the flour, sugar, nutmeg, mixed spice and cinnamon in a bowl.

Using your fingertips, rub in the butter until the mixture resembles grainy breadcrumbs. You can do this in the food processor but ensure you pulse so the mixture stays crumb-like.

Stir in the sultanas.

Mix in the eggs and Guinness until well combined. If the batter seems dry add a dash more Guinness until you achieve a wet, but still firm, batter.

Spoon into the prepared tin and level the surface.

Sprinkle over the demerara sugar.

Bake for approximately 1 hour or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean. Mine took 1 hour 10 minutes.

Leave to cool in the tin, on a wire rack until the tin is cool enough to handle – then you can de-tin the cake and leave to cool completely on the wire rack.

Serve at room temperature with cream or simply a good cup of tea!

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


Sunday, 13 June 2010

Caramel apple loaf cake

I don’t make that many loaf cakes which is a shame as they have to be the easiest cakes to portion (I think I’ve mentioned my cake-cutting phobia in the past)!
They also have a rustic look to them that I find inviting.

This week’s cake muse was the CCD who chose the ingredient of “apples”.
I love a good apple cake and picked this recipe as I was intrigued by the caramel topping . Here’s a close up of the topping oozing over the top of the cake:

Having said above that, in theory, loaf cakes are easier to cut, this one was a terror. It was crumbly and soft but I forgive it as it made it divine to eat!

I am very disappointed by the sweet eating habits of society these days. Where I live there are two large supermarkets, a well stocked newsagent and an off licence - not one of them sold toffees, which are needed to make the topping for this cake. What’s wrong with people? Why have they fallen out of love with the humble toffee? Are people too lazy to chew? Luckily, Mr CC found a bag for me further afield - cake crisis averted!

We all loved this cake; it delivers a lot flavourwise. The almost-bitter walnuts cut through the sweetness of the caramel topping and the juicy pockets of apple work nicely with the crumbly light sponge. The sponge contains yoghurt and is therefore extremely soft and light. Here are the cakes when baked (i.e. pre topping):

Add some sinful topping:

The recipe set out below makes one loaf cake; I doubled it to make two.


For the cake:

175g unsalted butter, at room temperature
175g golden caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
225g self raising flour
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 rounded tablespoons Greek yoghurt
2 eating apples, peeled, cored and diced – I chose Cox’s, as they are small I used 2 ½
50g walnuts – roughly chopped

For the topping:

50g soft toffees (I used Werther’s chewy toffees)
2 tablespoons double cream
handful of walnuts – chopped


Preheat oven to 160˚C/fan oven 140˚C/320˚F/Gas mark 3.

Line a 900g loaf tin (2lb in old money!) with baking paper.

Beat together the butter, sugar and vanilla until it is pale and smooth.

Beat in the eggs one at a time.

Stir in the flour, cinnamon and yoghurt.

Add the chopped apples and stir just enough to combine.

Spoon into the prepared tin and level the surface.

Scatter the walnuts over the top – I kept them centralised, like a walnut Mohican.

Bake for approximately 1 hour 20 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the loaf comes out clean.

Place the loaf, still in the tin, on a wire cooling rack.

Now make the topping: place the toffees and cream in a saucepan and gently heat until they melt and combine – stir the whole time (this is very important as the mixture will burn quickly if left unattended)

Leave to cool a little, about 3 minutes or so.

Turn the cake out of the tin and gently pour the topping over the top.

Scatter the extra walnuts on top – they will stick to the toffee.

This cake will keep in an airtight container for 3 days.

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


Thursday, 10 June 2010

Iron Cupcake London Challenge XI – Celebration

Our eleventh challenge marked Iron Cupcake London’s first birthday – we are one! Our theme was that of ‘celebration’, which our entrants interpreted in many (brilliant) ways.

I know I always say it but the standard was incredibly high – when you see the entries laid out along the bar it’s like being in the best cupcake bakery in the world! School half term and holidays meant a more intimate gathering this time with 13 amateur entries and 6 professional entries.

Before we get stuck into all the delicious entries can I please draw your attention to the announcement about future challenges at the end of this post - I mention this now in case some of you don't read to the end!

As it was our birthday we had a special award on the night, voted for by bakers, for the best decorated cupcake. As you will see, the winner is stunning and made by an amateur baker! It just shows the talent out there.

Best decorated cupcake – voted for by bakers – Andrea’s Birthday cake

Andrea’s birthday cake comprised of a light-as-air egg white vanilla and almond sponge (think Angel cake but even lighter and spongier!) with fluffy vanilla buttercream. The decoration is 100% edible and there is so much to admire – the glittering candle, the birthday plaque, and even little curly party streamers. It’s a work of art!

Here are our other winners on the night:

Winner (Amateur)– Andrea’s Pink champagne and strawberry cupcakes

Andrea’s second entry on the night won the amateur category. Her pink champagne and strawberry sponge was the most pretty shade of pink and filled with a white chocolate Ganache filling, all topped off with pink champagne and strawberry buttercream. The flavours complimented each other perfectly and, yet again, the sponge was light and soft and divine! Like eating a particularly tasty cloud!

Runner up (Amateur) – Rosalyn’s Ice cream cupcakes

Rosalyn’s stunning creation comprised of an ice cream cone, into which was baked a fruity and fragrant orange drizzle sponge topped with vanilla buttercream. Of course, every good ice cream requires a flake! I always notice that Rosalyn balances flavour well and this was no exception – the orange was subtle and built in your mouth and the cone provided a nice textural contrast.

Winner (Professional)– Amanda’s Apricot and rice pudding cupcakes

These were amazing! Amanda explained that when her children were babies she was always making them apricots with rice pudding. As this was our first birthday she made us baby food cupcakes! The apricot and rice pudding sponge was filled with apricot puree and topped with apricot buttercream. I have always loved the creamy richness of a good rice pudding and Amanda’s sponge captured that perfectly. All I can say is “I want that recipe!!!”. The little gift tag was so cute – Amanda printed it with edible ink on edible paper – how clever is that?

Runner up (Professional) – Melody’s 4th July peanut butter and chocolate cupcakes

Melody debuted in the competition with a gorgeous entry (which also received a lot of votes in the best decorated competition). Her peanut butter and chocolate sponge was topped with a whipped vanilla frosting. The flavours were wonderful and reminded me very much of a Topic bar – I think it was the chocolate and peanut combination. The little flags and star decorations were so pretty and also provided some crunch.

Those were the winners on the night; here’s a run down of all the amateur entries

Kelly’s Popcorn cupcakes

Kelly’s cupcakes took the form of a carton of popcorn – the stripy case being the carton and the frosting as the overflowing popcorn. The chocolate sponge was filled with cream and topped with a scrummy almond buttercream. It reminded me of a far classier Cadbury’s mini roll – heaven! Unsurprisingly, Kelly’s entry also scored well in our ‘best decorated’ competition.

Kelly’s White mini cupcakes

Kelly’s second entry of the night was a plain sponge topped with almond frosting and gel decoration. The sponge was very light and I could have eaten lots of it! I did feel for Kelly, these were meant to have a decoration that didn’t quite work out in the time available (we’ve all been there, haven’t we?) and then they suffered in transit meaning that some of the frosting was smudged. As we all learn eventually in life – looks aren’t everything – and I’m please to report that these tasted delicious.

Elizabeth’s “Nearly 9” crème de menthe cupcakes

Elizabeth’s vegan friendly cupcakes comprised of a chocolate sponge infused with crème de menthe and a chocolate crème de menthe buttercream. The flavours worked so well together – it takes a skilled baker to use anything mint in her cakes and balance it so that the whole thing doesn’t taste of toothpaste. Elizabeth got it spot on and I loved how the minty coolness and alcohol warmth built in your mouth.

Anne’s Margarita cupcakes

Anne’s margarita cupcakes had a most pleasing aroma of booze when she took the lid of her container…always a good start! The lime sponge was infused with tequila sugar syrup and topped with a sinful tequila and grand marnier frosting. The lime definitely hit first and I loved the way the syrup added juiciness to it. Then came the booze! Ann is a girl after my own heart – every cocktail needs an umbrella. Tina, who helps plate up all the bakers on arrival, snaffled the brolly as her daughter uses them as umbrellas for her Barbies!

Annabelle’s “Ice bucket” cupcakes

Love the concept here – Annabelle’s sponge is the ice bucket, the frosting is the ice and there’s the champagne bottle being chilled to perfection! The vanilla sponge was moist and light and the caramel cheese frosting was rich and flavoursome but not too sweet – sometimes caramel can be so sweet it makes your teeth itch, but not here; teaming it with the zingy cream cheese was genius! These tasted indulgent – perfect for a celebration.

Karen’s Choc velvet cupcakes

Karen’s rich and cocoa intense chocolate sponge was topped with a thick, smooth cream cheese frosting. The cream cheese frosting looked thicker and more densely piled up on the cupcake than you normally see – apparently, Karen’s recipe is a secret and she won’t even share it with her friends…much to their annoyance!

Tamara’s Praline chocolate cupcakes

Tamara’s praline chocolate sponge was covered with a generous helping of cream cheese frosting and sprinkled with, what I suspect were, crushed oreos. The rich sponge contrasted well with the light frosting and the mini Lindt choccy on top is always going to be a welcome addition!

Shannon’s “Celebrations” cupcakes

Shannon – I like the way you think! Her soft vanilla sponge topped with thick whipped vanilla buttercream hid a wonderful secret – Celebrations chocolates baked into each one! We all agreed that our cupcake contained Snickers. The Snickers bar baked into a gooey rich pocket which was delicious with the sponge and buttercream; the silver balls added some nice crunch too.

Becky and Flo’s Doughnut cupcakes

A team effort here; vanilla sponge housing a satisfying pocket of strawberry jam all topped off with a vanilla and strawberry buttercream. The sponge reminded me of Victoria sponge, which I think I could eat more of than anybody else on the planet! The buttercream was smooth and fruity and I loved how Becky and Flo piped it – you just look at it and think “Homer Simpson”! Tina, one of my fellow tasters, loved that the frosting tasted like candyfloss.

Gem’s Pop goes the brownie cupcakes

Gem rose valiantly from her sickbed to deliver her cupcakes to the event –lucky us! Her rich, fudgy brownie cupcakes worked beautifully with the vanilla bean frosting. As if that wasn’t enough Gem also added popping candy! Ying, one of my fellow tasters, summed it up succinctly with, “I need that recipe”. The chocolate decoration made these the tallest cupcakes of the night – Gem used a chocolate mould to make a bunch of party balloons.

Here’s what the professionals served up….

Nastassja’s Candy fun cupcakes

Nastassja took us all back to childhood parties with her vanilla sponge and vanilla frosted cupcakes topped with assorted sweeties. An ugly scene almost broke out at our table as we all scrambled for the drumstick (if anyone’s interested – Ying won). The frosting was beautifully piped and had some sort of lustre added to it that caught the light.

Nastassja’s Profiterole cupcakes

Nastassja’s second entry of the night was sheer indulgence – soft sponge with a whipped creamy topping would be heaven in itself. But no – Nastassja added a profiterole…it can’t get much better than that! When you look at the perfect beauty of the cake it’s hard to believe that there was an accident in transit and the cakes had to be reassembled on site!

Amanda’s Elderflower and blueberry cupcakes

Amanda’s second entry of the night (her first entry won the professional category) was a fragrant and delicate affair. The elderflower cupcake contained blueberry compote teamed with elderflower buttercream. It was a dreamy combination that smelled – and tasted – of summer. Light and refreshing…and how cute is that little piped 1?

Shaz’s Chocolate orange cupcakes

Poor Shaz was held up in traffic but battled through, with his cupcakes strapped to his scooter, to share another of his healthy cupcakes with us. The chocolate orange flavour was unmistakable and the sponge deliciously light, but we all agreed the star of the show was the topping. Imagine a chocolatey, moussey, ganachey smooth as silk custard and you’re getting close. Hard to believe it was low fat!

I’m sure you’ll agree that, in terms of a birthday buffet, Iron Cupcake London had the best first birthday party – EVER!

As always I’d like to thank all the bakers for taking the time to enter – each month we marvel at your skill and imagination…and go home full of sponge and sugar and chocolate and other lovely things! Thanks also to all the eaters for coming along and helping us pick the winner.

Special thanks to my awesome team of helpers who make the event run so smoothly on the night: Paul, Dave, Tina, and Ying – thanks. I couldn’t do it without you, nor would I wish to.

All photos are the property of Dave Shipman and are reproduced here with his kind permission. If you wish to use any of his photos please can you email me first for permission – thanks.

Future events:

Sadly, this is going to be the last Iron Cupcake London for a little while. I’ve mentioned before in the challenge announcements and at the start of the events that the success of ICL depends on our lovely bakers baking and our eaters respecting the effort that has gone into the cakes. We continually ask people to take only what they can eat on the night and not spirit away cupcakes in Tupperware to take home before everyone has had a chance to taste what they want to.

Regrettably, some people think these rules don’t apply to them and continue to upset the bakers – a cupcake hidden away in a Tupperware container is a cupcake that cannot be enjoyed on the night or receive a vote. A cupcake taken but not eaten is a cupcake that someone else has missed the chance to taste.

Since Monday’s event I have received several emails from bakers (and seen discussion on facebook and blogs) angry and upset at how their cupcakes were snatched out of their hands as they tried to fill their platter; how they saw their cupcakes with barely a mouthful taken out of them abandoned on plates. Much as I keep stressing this is a minority of people behaving this way, it is enough people to cause significant upset.

I don’t know what to do to change this unpleasant behaviour. As you will know if you come along we are a small team of organisers and don’t have the manpower to police the event – frankly, even if we did have more people I wouldn’t want the event to be run like this – it’s meant to be a bit of fun for people who like cupcakes.

My team need to discuss what can be done, if anything, to save the event. I would rather we stop running the competition while this happens as I don’t want to upset bakers further by having people continue to wrestle the cupcakes out of their hands.

I hope you understand this stance and I apologise to the vast majority of you who come along and enjoy the event with the spirit in which it is meant to be enjoyed.