France: Apple Tarte Tatin Cupcakes

Flag of France

Like many famous desserts the origins of the tarte tatin are heartily disputed, but it is considered (by most versions) to have been a mistake on the part of the chef. Serving the incorrect dish, the chef was so pleased by the reception of the dish that it became a regular dessert, thus becoming the classic dish we see today.

Apple Tart Tatin Cupcake

These cupcakes are based on this famous dessert, but in this case, the pastry is replaced by a brown sugar cupcake, topped with caramel apples and a caramel sauce. Sadly they are not baked upside down, but they do make a good alternative for those less fond of pastry!

Apple Tarte Tatin Cupcakes

Ingredients:

  • 8oz butter
  • 8oz golden caster sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 8oz plain flour
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence

Caramel apples:

  • 2 large eating apples
  • 30g butter
  • 2 tbsp golden caster sugar

Caramel sauce:

  • 65g butter
  • 50g light brown sugar
  • 25g icing sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp milk

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to gas mark 5, and line a 12-hole cupcake tray with liners. Make the cupcakes by beating together the butter, sugar, eggs, flour, baking powder and vanilla essence until well combined. Spoon into the cupcake cases and bake in the oven for 25 minutes until well risen and golden brown. Remove from the oven and leave the cupcakes to cool completely.

Peel, core and slice the apples. Melt the butter in a large frying pan and place the apples in a single layer in the pan, cooking until golden brown (turning as necessary). Add the sugar to the pan and allow to dissolve, coating the apple slices in a lovely layer of caramel. Remove the apples from the pan, and place the slices on top of the cupcakes.

In the same pan, melt the remaining butter and sugar until the sugar is completely dissolved. Add the icing sugar, milk and vanilla to the pan, stirring until a thick golden caramel is created. Remove the pan from the heat and brush the tops of the cupcakes with the caramel sauce.

United States of America: S’Mores Cupcakes

Flag of the United States of America

Yay, S’Mores Cupcakes! Now being from England, s’mores are not traditional – whilst I love toasting marshmallows in front of the fire, we English don’t do the whole biscuit/chocolate/marshmallow thing. However, after seeing many recipes in blogs/magazines and the internet and having a full jar of marshmallow fluff in the cupboard, I decided to give this American classic a try. So if you are in the mood for an American girl-guiding experience, try these!

Smores cupcake

The cake is a sponge mix enhanced with Graham crackers and chocolate chips, which is then topped with a marshmallow fluff frosting (which could be torched if you wanted to add a really authentic flavour to the cupcake). This is then decorated with dark chocolate drizzle and more graham crackers. I used honey grahams, which added a lovely depth of flavour, but it would also work well with plain crackers if you are unable to find the flavoured versions.

Marshmallow fluff frosting recipe taken from here

S’Mores Cupcakes

Ingredients:

  • 8oz butter
  • 8oz golden caster sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 4oz plain flour
  • 4oz graham crackers, ground into powder
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 2oz dark chocolate chips
  • 150g butter
  • 300g icing sugar
  • 200g marshmallow fluff
  • 2 tbsp milk

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to gas mark 5, and line a 12-hole cupcake tin with liners. Make the cupcake batter by creaming together the butter and sugar before beating in the eggs. Mix in the flour, ground graham crackers, baking powder and chocolate chips before spooning into the cupcake tin. Bake for 30 minutes until golden brown and well risen. Remove from the oven and leave to cool.

Once the cupcakes have cooled, beat the butter and sugar together using a hand blender until light and fluffy. Add the milk and marshmallow fluff and continue to beat until a good consistency is reached. Spoon into a piping bag and pipe a swirl onto the top of each cupcake. Decorate the cupcake with graham crackers and drizzled dark chocolate.

Malta: Cassata Siciliana Cupcakes

Flag of Malta

‘Hang on’, I hear many internet-based voices say. ‘This cake isn’t Maltese! It’s Sicilian! She doesn’t know what she’s talking about!’ Now, if you are one of these people, you are not wrong (about the first bit at least) – this cake is indeed Sicilian. The flavour combination of this dessert is most commonly found as a cake, but is also the basis of a favourite ice-cream flavour, and by extension a fabulous ice cream cake. However, it is exceedingly popular on the island of Malta as a dessert, particularly at Easter, and as my version is not a strict replica of the original, I feel few qualms about putting it in this category.

Malta Cake 3

As no doubt the pictures show, this is a loose rendition of the flavours of the cake, rather than a complete replica. The actual cake is far more complex and detailed, where as these share the same flavour profiles but can be whipped up very easily. The almond-scented cake is soaked in a rum drizzle, before being topped with green marzipan, and a ricotta frosting including chocolate chips and candied orange peel. The ricotta cheese frosting is almost unsweetened, however this is not to your taste then feel free to add more icing sugar.

Malta Cake 2

Cassata Siciliana Cupcakes

Ingredients:

  • 8oz butter
  • 8oz caster sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 8oz self raising flour
  • 2 tsp almond essence
  • 50ml dark rum
  • 1 tbsp caster sugar
  • 20ml water
  • 100g white marzipan
  • Green food colouring
  • 200g ricotta cheese
  • 4 tbsp dark chocolate chips
  • 4 tbsp candied peel
  • 1 tbsp icing sugar

Instructions

Preheat the oven to Gas mark 5, and line a 12-hole cupcake tin. Cream together the butter and sugar, before beating in each egg individually. Add the flour and almond essence and mix well. Spoon into the cupcake tin and bake for 30 minutes until well risen and golden brown. Remove and place on a baking rack to cool.

Heat the rum, caster sugar and water in a pan until it reaches the boil, before reducing the heat and simmering for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and pour over the cupcakes, before leaving them to cool completely.

Tint the marzipan green, before rolling out to a thickness of 1mm. Cut out a piece of marzipan sufficient to cover the top of your cupcake and cover each cupcake, trimming the edges to create a neat finish. Mix the ricotta cheese, icing sugar, candied peel and chocolate chips, reserving a small handful to decorate. Spoon the mixture into a piping bag and pipe a small amount on the top of each cupcake, before finishing with the few reserved chocolate chips.

Poland: Ciasto Pijak (Drunkards Cake)

Flag ~ Poland ~ Pologne ~ Polska

What surprised me as I became more involved in the researching of recipes for this blog, is how this blog is not just about cake. Of course, cake is the canvas, but more than that the recipes showcase a culture and its history. Eastern European countries are an excellent example of this, in that their foods are closely linked to their heritage – many recipes are either a result of using what was available during the communist occupations, or conversely a resurgence of traditional cultural dishes.

After gaining independence in 1989, Poland (like many others) started a slow food revival, moving away from the many state-owned restaurants to a reaffirming of their cultural heritage. Fast food declined in popularity and far more interest has been given to reviving traditional meals, this recipe being one of them.

I discovered this recipe whilst doing some research into Polish desserts and cakes, and it immediately caught my attention due to the stripes and layering within the cake. I love cakes that look good though the base cake, not just the decoration put on top, and layers are a particularly good way to achieve this. This cake consists of layers of chocolate and poppyseed sponge, sandwiched with cherry compote, topped with pastry cream and ladyfingers soaked in rum (giving the cake its name). The final layer is a melted chocolate and nut topping which acts as a firm shell, resulting in a fantastic contrast of textures within the cake, from the soft sponge and cream to the final crisp and crunchy chocolate shell.

drunkards cake 1

The layers of cake, custard and jam

Drunkards cake 2

With the rum-soaked ladyfingers

drunkards cake 3

With the chocolate and nut shell.

The original recipe was adapted from here. There are several other recipes available, though many of these are in Polish, which led to some interesting translations from Google, which was why I decided to stick to this one! This cake is a bit of a mission as though it is quite simple to make there are a lot of different components, however it is worth it!

Ciasto Pijak (Drunkards Cake)

Ingredients:

Chocolate Sponge Cake:

  • 3 large room temperature eggs
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup cake flour + 1 tablespoon cake flour
  • 2 tablespoons Dutch-processed cocoa powder
  • Pinch salt

Poppyseed Sponge Cake:

  • 3 large room-temperature eggs
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup cake flour
  • Pinch salt
  • 1/2 cup poppyseeds
  • 1/2 cup dried, sweetened flaked coconut

Crème Patisserie

  • 425ml milk
  • 1 vanilla pod
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 110g caster sugar
  • 2 level tbsp plain flour
  • 1 level tbsp cornflower
  • 10g butter

Other ingredients:

  • 2 cups cherry preserves
  • 1 cup dark rum
  • 1 pack ladyfingers
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 1 tsp vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 350°F and greasing a 13″ by 9″ tin. Set aside. To make the chocolate sponge, place the eggs and sugar in a heat proof bowl and beat over a pan of simmering water for 1 minute, until the sugar has dissolved. Using a handheld whisk, beat on a high setting for about three minutes until the mixture has tripled in volume. Sift the cocoa powder, flour and salt into the bowl, folding gently to just incorporate – you don’t want to stir too much at this point. Spread the batter in the tin and bake for about 12 minutes until cooked. Remove and allow to cool for 10 minutes before removing from the tin and leaving to cool completely.

Next prepare the poppyseed sponge in the same method as the chocolate sponge, beating the eggs and sugar together before sifting in the dry ingredients. Bake for 12 minutes (or until done – do check as all ovens are different!) before cooling and removing from the tin.

Next on the long list of components (it’s worth it I promise you!) is the vanilla pastry cream. Put the milk and vanilla pod in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Take it off the heat and pour it into a bowl, allowing the vanilla pod to infuse the milk. Mix together the sugar and egg yolks until the mixture is pale and thick. Remove the vanilla pod from the milk and discard. Slowly add the milk to the mixture, whisking constantly. Add the flour and cornflower, continuing to whisk the mixture. Return to the pan and bring to the boil, before reducing the heat and simmering the mixture for three minutes, stirring continuously. Remove the mixture from the heat immediately and place into a bowl, covering with a sheet of greased baking parchment to prevent a skin from forming. Leave to cool completely.

Now we are ready to assemble! (Finally, you say.) Start with the chocolate sponge, place it on the serving dish and spread with the cherry compote/preserves. Top with the poppyseed cake before spreading with the pastry cream and placing the cake in the fridge to chill for at least 1 hour.

Dip each ladyfinger in rum before placing them neatly in a single layer on top of the cake. Return to the fridge and chill for another hour. Melt the chocolate and oil together and spread over the top of the cooled cake before sprinkling with the chopped walnuts. Put back in the fridge overnight, and serve cold, cut into small squares.

Puerto Rico: Pina Colada Cupcakes

The Pina Colada cocktail was invented by a Puerto Rican bartender in 1952, a drink to showcase the new coconut cream. His position of bartender at the the Caribe Hilton in Puerto Rico gave him an unprecidented opportunity for his new drink – as the first luxury hotel to open in the San Juan area, he had many rich and famous clients who duly spread the work of this new cocktail throughout the world.

pina colada cupcakes

This delicious cocktail is full of tropical flavours which work especially well as a cupcake. The cake is a pineapple coconut cake, which is then drenched in a rum drizzle, before being topped with a coconut buttercream, and toasted coconut. The cupcakes could also be decorated with a dried pineapple flower if wished. The recipe for the flowers can be found here, and is extremely simple to complete, thus being well worth the effort.

pina colada cupcakes 2

Pina Colada Cupcakes

Recipe adapted from Baked Perfection

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 2/3 cups sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup crushed pineapple in juice
Pina Colada Frosting
  • 1 stick of butter, softened
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 2  1/2 tablespoons coconut milk
  • Dried pineapple flowers (see here) and dessicated coconut
Instructions:
Preheat the oven to 350ºF/Gas Mark 4 and line a 12 hole cupcake tin with liners.
Cream together the butter and sugar, before adding the eggs, beating after each addition. Add the vanilla and mix well. Mix the dry ingredients together in a bowl. Gradually mix the dry ingredients into the batter, alternating with spoonfuls of coconut milk and pineapple until all ingredients have been combined. Spoon the mixture into the cupcake liners and bake for 25-30 minutes until golden brown and firm to the touch.
To make the frosting, beat together the butter and powdered sugar until thick and creamy, adding the coconut milk in gradually to create a thick frosting. Spoon onto the cupcakes, before topping with toasted coconut and a dried pineapple flower.

Chocolate Peppermint Bark

Today, I’m sharing with you my new favourite sweet treat, homemade chocolate peppermint bark. Now to be honest I’m not convinced that this needs a recipe, as it is so ridiculously simple, but I felt that it was so delicious, that I just had to share it with you!

Peppermint bark 2

[Note: This recipe can be (and will be) adapted in as many different ways as you see fit, so feel free to change the combinations to match whatever flavours you prefer.]

peppermint bark

Chocolate Peppermint Bark

Ingredients: 

(To make one 9″x9″ pan)

  • 200g dark chocolate (the better the quality, the better the overall product)
  • 200g white chocolate (as above)
  • 1 tsp peppermint extract
  • A few drops of green food colouring
  • 2 peppermint aero bars, roughly chopped

Instructions:

Line a 9″x9″ tin with tin foil. Melt the dark chocolate over a pan of simmering water and pour into the tin, spreading out to cover the bottom. Place in the fridge and leave to set.

Melt the white chocolate over a pan of simmering water and add the green food colouring and peppermint extract. Pour over the set dark chocolate and spread to cover the first layer of chocolate. Cover the top with a layer of chopped mint aero pieces and leave to set in the fridge. Once completely set, break into large pieces, using a sharp knife to help you if needed.

Carrot and Coriander Muffins

Another lunchbox delight here, in this case a reimagining of the traditional carrot and coriander soup into a bite size muffin. These include grated carrot, chopped fresh coriander and cumin, whilst chopped walnuts add some crunch to the muffin. These are best served warm on the day of baking, served with a good cheese, preferably Cheshire or Wensleydale. Bake and enjoy!

Carrot and Coriander Muffins

Carrot and Coriander Muffins

Ingredients

  • 2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 175g carrots
  • 50g chopped walnuts
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh coriander
  • 150g plain flour
  • 100g wholemeal flour
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 200ml milk
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 4 tbsp olive oil

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 190C/fan170C/gas 5, and grease a 12-hole cupcake tray.

Coarsely grate the carrot and place in a large bowl, along with the chopped walnuts, cumin and coriander. Mix in the rest of the dry ingredients. Add the wet ingredients to this mixture and beat lightly until just mixed. Spoon into the cupcake tin and bake for 20-25 minutes until firm and risen. Cool for 5 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack.