Sunday, 6 November 2011

Cupcake Trio: Lemon, Coffee & Chocolate

We went to a gathering this afternoon for Risk (the board game) and fireworks. In the past we usually would bring in a dozen of cupcakes from Waitrose. But now I am a baker (well, sort of) so it becomes unacceptable (at least for me) to bring any store-brought cupcakes. What happened was: I woke up at half eight to try out a new recipe which I had been studying for 2 days, with an ambition to bake something French & fancy. By 11am, unfortunately, the whole plan was proven to be a DISASTER. Lesson learnt. Never ever try to attempt any untested recipe for a purposeful bake again. Plus, choux pastry is not easy!

Overwhelmed with frustration and disappointment, I almost thought maybe I should just go to Waitrose again. Then I suddenly remembered the marble cupcakes I made last month (which I still haven't had time to blog about yet!). That recipe was very easy and reliable. Because I made a Victoria sponge using a similar formula too (which, again, hasn't been blogged yet. Doh!). Looking at the clock, I still got 2 hours. Should be enough. Just enough. Most importantly, I got all the necessary ingredients at home.

However, I got a personal goal to try out 10 new recipes every month. I just couldn't do the same marble cupcakes again. I need to do something different! How about a marble cupcake trio with three flavours? Yet it's too risky to put three flavours together in one single small cupcake. Wait... Maybe just 3 batches of cupcakes in different flavours? The upside of this idea was... with 3 different cupcakes to choose from, my friends should have higher chance to find something they like from my cupcake basket?

That's how I ended up in baking 20 cupcakes in 3 different flavours in 2 hours.

The result was quite pleasing. Everyone loved them. All but two were gone when I left the house after 5 hours. The most impressive thing was, when the host handed the cupcakes to a late-coming friend, the guy shook his head and said, "Nah.. I only like the home-made ones." -- Judging by the look and colour, he thought they were brought from a bakery! And after a bite, he liked it.

I think I'd love to call it a minor triumph. A very minor one, but still, a triumph.

Loosely based on:
"Chocolate Marble Cake" by Emma Lewis on BBC Goodfood.

Original Ingredients: (Makes a 20cm round cake): 
  • 225g butter , softened
  • 225g caster sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 225g self-raising flour
  • 3 tbsp milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp cocoa powder

Original Method:
  1. Heat oven to 180C/gas 160C/gas 4. Grease a 20cm cake tin and line the bottom with a circle of greaseproof paper. If you want to make life easy, simply put all the ingredients (except the cocoa powder) into a food processor and whizz for 1-2 mins until smooth. If you prefer to mix by hand, beat the butter and sugar together, then add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Fold through the flour, milk and vanilla extract until the mixture is smooth.

  2. Divide the mixture between 2 bowls. Stir the cocoa powder into the mixture in one of the bowls. Take 2 spoons and use them to dollop the chocolate and vanilla cake mixes into the tin alternately. When all the mixture has been used up (and if young kids are doing this, you'll need to ensure the base of the tin is fairly evenly covered), tap the bottom on your work surface to ensure that there aren't any air bubbles. Take a skewer and swirl it around the mixture in the tin a few times to create a marbled effect.

  3. Bake the cake for 45-55 mins until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Turn out onto a cooling rack and leave to cool. Will keep for 3 days in an airtight container or freeze for up to 3 months.

My Ingredients: (Makes 20 small cupcakes, each about 4cm across the base):

For Cupcakes:
    • 150g butter
    • 150g caster sugar
    • 3 eggs
    • 150g self-raising flour
    • 1/4 tsp baking powder
    • 2.5 tbsp milk
    • 1 tsp vanilla extract
    • 1 tbsp cocoa powder
    • 1 tbsp expresso powder
    • 1 lemon, juice & zest  (yielding about 1 tbsp zest)
    • 15g walnut, crushed
    • 18 pieces of chocolate drops or pieces
    For Buttercream & Topping:
    • 90g butter
    • 120g icing sugar
    • 1 tbsp milk
    • (Lemon Buttercream only) extra 1 lemon, 1/2 tbsp milk
    • (Coffee Buttercream only) extra 1 tbsp espresso
    • (Chocolate topping only) Chocolate sauce & mini marshmallows

    My Method:
    1. Heat oven to 170C. Prepare lemon zest & juice. Crush walnuts. Dilute 1 tbsp of espresso powder with 1 tbsp of hot water. Place cupcake cases on two cupcake trays.

    2. Beat the butter and sugar together, then add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Fold through the flour, vanilla extract and 1 tbsp of milk until the mixture is smooth.

    3. Divide the mixture among 3 bowls:
      (For lemon cupcakes) Stir in 1 tbsp of zest, 1/2 tbsp of lemon juice and 1/2 tbsp of milk.
      (For coffee cupcakes) Stir in 15g crushed walnuts, half of the espresso solution, 1/2 tbsp of water.
      (For chocolate cupcakes) Stir the cocoa powder and 1 tbsp of milk.

      Mix well after stirring in the specified ingredients.

    4. Each bowl of the cupcake mixtures can approximately fill 7 cupcake cases to half full. Bake the cake for 22 mins or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Turn out onto a cooling rack and leave to cool.

    5. Put the icing sugar & butter into a large bowl, then beat together until light and pale. Divide the buttercream among 2 bowls:
      (For Lemon buttercream) Add 3/4 tbsp of zest, 1/2 tbsp of lemon juice and 1/2 tbsp of milk. Mix well. Then use a piping bag to decorate on lemon cupcakes.
      (For Coffee buttercream) Add the remaining half of the espresso solution, 1/2 tbsp of water & 1 tbsp of espresso powder. Mix well. Then use a piping bag (either another piping bag or after washing) to decorate a coffee cupcakes.
      (For Chocolate topping) Squeeze about 1/2 tsp of chocolate sauce and stick a handful of mini marshmallows on.

    One-line Verdict:
    An easy cupcake recipe derived from from classic Poundcake forumla. Almost fool-proof.

      • It's quite hectic to prepare a "Trio" with three different flavours, but I wanted to make sure my friend can find something they love in my cupcake basket, so I just tried my best to come up with three distinct flavours. In fact, it just took me a little bit over two hours to finish the whole preparation, baking & decoration even I had to wash and wipe the mixer and piping bag after doing each flavour. 
      • I was planning to do a chocolate ganache topping but I didn't have enough time. The marshmallows were a pure improvisation. I wasn't too happy about it. :(
      • This cupcake trio used the classic Poundcake formula with equal proportion of flour, butter and sugar. The texture was rather dense compared with some other cupcakes (such as The Hummingbird Bakery cupcakes) which has significantly higher sugar content and less flour. I added an extra quarter teaspoon of baking powder for a lighter texture.
      • For simple butter cream using only butter, icing sugar & milk or water, I usually like to have a 1 to 1 butter-sugar ratio for plain or vanilla butter cream, but this time I increased the sugar ratio by 30% to compensate the sourness of lemon and bitterness of coffee powder. The degree of sweetness, surprisingly, turned out pretty well. My friends loved them.
      • To carry 18 cupcakes with frosting to my friend's home, I used a big 5.5 litre Lock & Lock container which I purchased as part of this set from Amazon. An exact dozen of cupcakes can fit securely in the box without moving around. For the chocolate cupcakes without frosting, I just stacked them into a small tupperbox.
      • Approximate cost of the main ingredients: £6

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