Baking · Cake · Cupcakes

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.

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Baking · Cake · Cupcakes · Europe · Nation Cake Challenge

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.

Cake · Central America · Cupcakes · Nation Cake Challenge

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.
Baking Research · Cupcakes

The Great Phoenix Cupcake Challenge, Part 2

Flag of Arizona

Last time on the Great Phoenix Cupcake Challenge we awarded the prizes for storefront, decoration, most random location and range of flavours (for the full details see here). Today however we bring out the big guns, the OSCARS of this cupcake tasting championships. Today we will discuss the results for the best individual cupcakes and crown our overall champion, the queen of Phoenix’s cupcake shops.

In no particular order then, our top three cupcakes:

The Sweet Tooth Fairy – Strawberry Shortcake

I have a confession, whilst I love fresh strawberries, I almost never buy strawberry-flavoured products because they almost never taste like strawberries. Instead what you tend to get is a taste reminiscent of shampoo, bearing very little relation to the delicious fruit from which it supposedly comes. However, this cupcake make me eat my words. Delicious cake with a lovely vanilla flavour, and the frosting! Oh my. Absolutely delicious, wonderfully fruity and not at all too sweet, a common complaint amongst ones we did not like so much. Whilst all the cupcakes from this lovely shop were completely delicious (we did not have a complaint about any one cupcake!), this one stood out particularly.

Strawberry Shortcake

21 Cupcakes – Bacon Maple Vanilla Cupcake

Putting bacon in a cupcake can be a little controversial amongst tasters – you seem to either love the idea or hate it! However, this cupcake defied the expectations of several doubters, and emerged clearly as one of our favourites. The vanilla cake was beautifully fragrant and soft, whilst the maple and bacon combination came through clearly but managing not to overpower the whole cupcake. Possibly my favourite cupcake that we tasted, this cake recipe should be the standard text on how to use bacon in a cupcake.

Sprinkles Cupcakes – Chai Latte Cupcake

Sprinkles Cupcakes have the plainest presentation of any of the shops, but often this plain presentation hides a wonderful interior, and this particular cupcake shows the duckling becoming the swan. A non-descript brown exterior, with perfectly smooth icing provides a wonderful hit of coffee and associated spices, recalling perfectly its namesake drink. A more unusual flavour, but a delicious end result, and one I would happily eat again.

(Image taken from here)

And now, the final award, this time for best in show goes to…

The Sweet Tooth Fairy!

Really from the first bit of delicious cupcake there was no way that The Sweet Tooth Fairy could not have won this contest. Scoring top marks on all categories from storefront to taste, this shop was a pleasure to visit, and it will definitely be one to visit next time I am in the USA.

Baking Research · Cupcakes

The Great Phoenix Cupcake Challenge, Part 1

During our visit to the states this summer, Max’s aunt (who knows my obsession for all things baking) had put together a list of recommended cupcake shops to visit. This soon developed into a full-scale cupcake competition, pitting shops and bakeries against each other in a ‘battle for cupcake domination!’ (Sorry…)

Disclaimer: All of these opinions are my own, and those of Max and his family. There were other shops we didn’t visit, so just because something is not listed here does not make it bad!

In order to fairly compare the cupcakes, we scored them out of 10 on the following categories:

  • Storefront
  • Packaging
  • Range of cupcakes
  • Decoration
  • Flavour/quantity of frosting
  • Flavour/texture of cake

We also then awarded a holistic mark and came up with some overall winners based on their marks in all categories. I won’t bore you with all the data (we had tables, statistics and  collaborative comments), but here are some of the highlights.

Best Storefront and Packaging – The Sweet Tooth Fairy

 

It seems right to start with one of our favourite contestants from the tasting, and this shop hit pretty much all the marks. We loved the pastel colours and English-tea-party decor, and the monogrammed furniture inside. Whilst still rather plain, the pretty stickers on the boxes pushed The Sweet Tooth Fairy’s packaging above the very plain packaging of most of the others, and we also liked the small display of baking decorations and other cake-based goodies as you walked in. The cafe area did not feel to crowded and we fitted six people around one table quite happily.

(Image taken from here)

If we were to be really picky, we felt that it would have been nice to have a better selection of drinks to eat with the delicious cupcakes, however, that would just be the cherry on top of a really delicious cake.

Biggest Cupcake/Most Random Location – Tom’s Thumb Fresh Market

An honourable mention for this diner, which presented us with the largest cupcake we had ever seen – it looked like it had eaten two of the other cakes. At $2.95 it was great value for money, and good quality food considering this was the one entry not from a dedicated cupcake business. And all for a restaurant in a gas station. Much respect.

(Image taken from here)

Best decoration – The Victorian Cake Company and Candyland Cupcakes

This bakery has already been mentioned with regard to their completely delicious cronuts, but also deserve a mention for the pretty delicate decoration featured on their cupcakes. This was one feature we felt disappointed with overall, that decoration was very plain, and often non-existent. The flowers and toppings on these cakes made them an easy winner of the decoration award, really making them stand out from the crowd.

(Image taken from here)

Best Range of Interesting Flavours – Sprinkles Cupcakes

Going around a lot of cupcake shops, you soon find that a lot of flavours are baked wherever you go, meaning that when you find new flavours, it becomes quite exciting. The range of flavours on display at Sprinkles really impressed me, and small menus on display showed many other flavours if we were to come back on a different day. We sampled the Chai Latte and Pumpkin flavours, but was also very excited about the ginger lemon and mocha. I could have happily eaten any of their flavours, but more importantly was intrigued by some of the combinations – a success.

(Image taken from here)

That’s the first part of the contest then! Tune in later to find out our favourite individual cupcakes and our favourite overall shop!

Baking · Cake · Cupcakes · Europe · Nation Cake Challenge

Turkey: Turkish Delight Cupcakes

Flag of Turkey.

Today I’m presenting you with a new and improved version of one of the most popular cakes on this site so far, the Turkish delight cupcakes. These have without a doubt been the most raved about, most regularly made and the most searched out of the whole site, and I’m pleased to be able to give you an updated version of the recipe with some better photographs! (Always helps!) Enjoy, and if you make them, let me know what you think!

Turkish Delight Cupcake 2

I’ve added a chocolate-covered coffee bean to the decoration of these which I feel works very well as a flavour contrast, however if you cannot get your hands on them, feel free to leave them out. Do not leave out the pomegranate seeds though, they provide a sharp contrast to the sweetness of the buttercream which is essential to the overall balance of the cake.

Turkish Delight Cupcake 1

Ingredients

Cake

  • 8oz butter
  • 8oz caster sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1tsp vanilla essence
  • 4oz plain flour
  • 6oz ground pistachios
  • 3tsp baking powder
  • 6 pieces rose Turkish Delight, cut in half

Rose Buttercream

  • 250g icing sugar
  • 80g unsalted butter
  • 25ml whole milk
  • 1 tsp rosewater
  • 1 drop of red food colouring
  • Chocolate coffee bean and pomegranate seeds to decorate

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to gas mark 5 and place cupcake liners in 2 12-hole cake tins (you will likely use 18 of the 24).

Beat the butter and sugar together before adding the eggs and vanilla essence. Mix in the flour, baking powder and ground pistachios and combine gently. Place a teaspoon of the mixture  into the cupcake cases  and place a piece of Turkish delight into each case. Cover with the remaining mixture and bake in the pre-heated oven for 25 minutes until golden brown and firm to the touch.

Once the cakes have completely cooled, make the buttercream by beating together the butter and icing sugar, before adding the milk and rosewater and beating for about 5 minutes until fluffy. Add the red food colouring drop by drop, mixing after each addition until a light rose pink colour is achieved. Pipe the buttercream onto the top of the cupcakes and decorate with pomegranate seeds and a chocolate coffee bean..

Baking · Cupcakes · Europe · Nation Cake Challenge

Scotland: Cranachan Cupcakes

Flag of Scotland. Ratio 3:5. The blue used is ...

Every so often you make something that works really well, and that needs to be repeated. These cupcakes were one of those recipes, one that was so popular that i was requested again and again, quoted as an example of a really good cake. Last time, I made this recipe as a cake, right at the start of writing this blog, but as a layer cake rather than cupcakes. Good, but less practical when there are only two of you. This time, I made it as cupcakes – a great improvement for a couple!

Cranachan Cupcakes

These cupcakes are boozy, featuring a oat-enriched cake soaked in Scotch whiskey, a raspberry whiskey compote and a whiskey-infused whipped cream topping. The cupcakes are then sprinkled with a combination of freeze-dried raspberries and rolled oats. The recipe is very similar to the original recipe, with just a few tweaks for a better flavour, based on feedback from the previous ones. Scottish or not, I can’t think of anyone who wouldn’t like one of these cupcakes for an afternoon treat.

Cranachan Cupcakes 2

Cranachan Cupcakes

Ingredients (makes 12-16, depending on your generosity)

Cake:

  • 4oz plain flour
  • 4oz rolled oats
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 8oz caster sugar
  • 8oz butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup of Scotch whiskey

Raspberry Compote:

  • 2 punnets raspberries
  • 2 tbsp caster sugar
  • 1/4 cup scotch whiskey

Whipped cream topping:

  • 300 ml double cream
  • 4 tbsp whiskey
  • 2 tbsp icing sugar
  • 1 tbsp rolled oats
  • 1 tbsp freeze-dried raspberries

Instructions

Preheat the oven to gas mark 5 and line a cupcake pan with liners

Cream together the butter and sugar until pale and smooth. Add in the eggs, beating well after each addition. Mix together the flour, oats and baking powder. Add this to the creamed mixture, mixing well to make a smooth mixture. Add the vanilla essence and stir in until completely combined. Spoon the mixture into the cupcake cases and bake in the oven for approximately 25 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.

When the cake comes out of the oven, use a skewer or sharp knife make small slits in the cupcakes. Pour over the whiskey, allowing time for the liquid to sink into the cakes. Leave to cool for 10 minutes before removing from the tin and allowing to cool completely. Use a small knife or a cupcake corer to remove the centre of each cupcake ready for filling.

Make the raspberry compote by reducing down the sugar, whiskey and raspberries in a small pan until the mixture is thick. Strain through a sieve to remove the seeds and taste, adding more sugar as you feel necessary. Once it is sufficiently thick (you want it to be the consistency of raspberry jam) then spoon a small amount of the mixture into the centre of each cupcake.

[Cheat: You could use raspberry jam instead of the compote if preferred  -just ensure you choose a good brand!]

Whip up the cream, icing sugar and whiskey together for the topping, ensuring that it is really thick and creamy. Pipe the cream onto the top of each cupcake, before decorating with freeze-dried raspberries and rolled oats.