Baking for a good cause! [+RECIPE]

Last weekend was full of baking and experimenting! And it was great (until the moment when my lower back decided I have abused it enough and left me rather crippled for most of Sunday but that was OK as I did really need a break)!!!

Our Scout group was holding a fundraising cake stall on Saturday morning so I prepared around 3 dozen of individual cookie bags and another 3 dozen of vanilla cupcakes with rainbow frosting. Ok, rainbow frosting was the plan, at least. What I didn’t take into account is that a) temperatures have been rather high around here for early summer (we’re talking 28 degrees Celsius) and b) no air-con in the kitchen. So the buttercream melted from the time I mixed it till the moment I spooned it into the piping bags. So they looked more psychedelic than rainbow but… it happens! I am still pretty proud as we were able to collect plenty of money for the Scout group. And don’t they still look pretty?


That same evening we were holding another fundraising event in a local wine shop & tasting room and I had set my mind on making wine-spiked cupcakes seeing as it was going to be adult only. The guys from My Wines had been kind enough to provide me with a bottle of mocha coffee flavoured wine – yum!

The cupcakes came out beaitufully moist and rich and I topped them up with my favorite Hummingbird Bakery cream cheese frosting and little wine bottles made of fondant. What a treat after drinking plenty of vino! Recipe below.
ImageRed wine cupcakes with cream cheese frosting (Makes approx. 24)
Recipe taken from: butter me up, Brooklyn (aside from frosting)

For the cupcakes:
260g plain flour
100g unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking powder
170g softened butter
300g brown sugar
100g caster sugar
3 eggs at room temperature
355ml red wine (if you use a chocolate wine, reduce the sugar, otherwise you risk them being too sweet)
2 tsp vanilla
red food coloring (optional)

For the frosting (by the Hummingbird Bakery):
600g icing sugar, sifted (I normally put less as I don’t like the icing too sweet)
100g unsalted butter, at room temperature
250g cream cheese, cold

To make the cupcakes:
In a medium bowl whisk together flour, cocoa, baking powder, cinnamon, salt and baking soda. In a large bowl (I use my standing mixer’s one) beat butter and both sugars together until smooth (if using a standing mixer, use the paddle attachment). Add eggs and beat to combine, then add red wine and vanilla and beat until incorporated. At this stage, it will look weird but don’t worry, the dry ingredients will make it smooth again. Add these in several additions, being careful not to over mix. Divide the batter evenly among the prepared cupcake liners until they are 2/3 full.

Bake for 20 to 22 minutes, or until a tester inserted into the center of cupcakes comes out clean. Let the cupcakes cool for five minutes or so in the tin, then turn them out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the frosting:
Beat the icing sugar and butter together in a freestanding electric mixer with a paddle attachment (or use a handheld electric whisk) on medium-slow speed until the mixture comes together and is well mixed (it will look like crumbs).

Add the cream cheese in one go and beat until it is completely incorporated. Turn the mixer up to medium-high speed. Continue beating until the frosting is light and fluffy, at least 5 mins. Careful not to overbeat as it can turn runny quite quickly.

Happy days!

Carrying cupcakes around is a messy and complicated affair, let me tell you this. I have been dreading this coming weekend when the Scout Group I am a leader for is hosting a fundraising cake stall, as well as a fundraising wine night for which I am baking cupcakes with chocolate wine (yum!).

But today I nipped into a local pound shop to check out if they had any boxes I can use to carry the cupcakes in, and found The Solution to my problem. Just look at this beauty:ImageFor a few weeks now I had been eyeing this cupcake caddy on Amazon. But while we are considered UK for anything else, delivery to Gib is not the easiest things of all. It takes ages, costs a fortune or is not possible at all for bulky/heavy objects. I decided not to go through the stand mixer drama again and gave up. So imagine how I felt today when I saw it!!! Insta-buy, obviously.

Cannot wait for Saturday morning to stack all the funfetti cupcakes in it!

Garden themed birthday cake

So I had all those posts planned in my head… Mother’s day (in March where I am based), Easter, etc. But now it’s been way after each of these events so I decided to forget about the plan and post everything backwards. Starting with my latest baking creation: a birthday cake for a keen gardener!

Me and my friend who ordered it didn’t want fondant so this made it a little more complicated but I am still happy with the result. Red velvet cake with cream cheese all the way (albeit painted green on the outside) and all edible decorations:

I loved making all the decorations but my favorite is the watering can. Too much cute, I think!

There is more to come!

I am still here and still baking, by the way. I know I have been seriously slacking off around here but loads of baking, 3 business trips in the last 4 weeks, loads of other activities, fostering a tiny kitten and trying to have a social life really took its toll. I am really looking forward to this coming (long, thankfully) weekend which also happens to be Easter weekend. This means 4 days off in which I hopefully manage to catch up on sleep, visits to Spain, maybe a BBQ (weather permitting), and best of all, time to blog!

There is a Mother’s Day post, ‘The Big Baking Job’ post, a baby shower post, maybe a kitten post and few more coming. See you soon!

He’s here! He’s here!

I have some BIG news to share. Are you ready?

Andy has arrived. What a blessing after weeks of delivery (or refusal of delivery) drama. I’m so happy to finally have him home. Here he is, isn’t he just beautiful?
ImageHe’s only lived with us for a few days (after having an adventure and travelling to Malaga from Vienna in my suitcase) but I can see how we will be best friends. Not only is he good-looking, but he is a huge help in the kitchen. Welcome home, Andy.

And this is what we did together yesterday over a cup of coffee (quite literally). These Hummingbird Bakery Tiramisu cupcakes:
ImageHappy times!

Gluten free cupcakes and a sneak peak!

Today I have 3 exciting stories to share! 4 actually if we count I finally was able to produce (and reproduce) cream cheese frosting which I was able to pipe! ButI think I will dedicate a separate post to this as it is a huge milestone!

So here are 3 pictures with my 3 stories:

Gluten free cupcakes
I have been wanting to try gluten free baking for a while. This Saturday I was finally brave enough to attempt it. I used my favorite white chocolate and strwaberry cupcake recipe and simply replaced the plain flour with gluten free one (it was made of corn). My baking powder is anyways gluten free and the rest of the ingredients are safe. I was very nervous because I had never really looked into gluten free baking and wasn’t sure if just substituting the flour would give me the desired result or something else had to be done. But I followed my gut and ended up with these delicious beauties. Success!

An extra hand in the kitchen
So my other half has been saying he’d like to me to teach him to bake. At first I thought he’s joking but he asked me again this week so today, he baked his first ever batch of cupcakes and I only helped chop the strawberries, he did everything else himself. They came out amazing! So proud of him!

A photo shoot sneak peak
In my last post I talked about my photography drama. But then awesome Whitney came along and said she’s itching to take photos of food (she prefers it to taking photos of people – aren’t I lucky to have such friends???), and I happened to have some cupcakes and we ended up arranging a mini photo shoot in the kitchen this afternoon while drinking coffee and chatting. She is working on the photos and I haven’t seen them even on the camera so I am totally excited to see them soon and share a few here!

On a different note, I am off to Vienna tomorrow for a week so please bare with me. I will be back soon enough!

Photographing food (or Mission Impossible)

If you have scrolled through my blog, you have surely noticed that my iPhone and Instagram are my best friends when it comes to taking pictures. This is not for lack of trying or wanting to post lame photos, oh no. It is all because a) I am not very good at taking photos and know close to nothing about angle, light, exposure etc, b) I tend to bake (late) in the evening so the light is mostly horrible, c) I don’t have a great spot/table for nice arrangements, d) I often forget to take pictures or am in such a rush that taking out the proper camera is a mission, e) Food is probably one of the hardest things to photograph, f) Need I go on?

Admittedly, it is difficult to overcome some of these challenges. I won’t become a photographer overnight. I don’t want to / can’t quit my full time job to bake when the light is right. Refurbishing a rented flat to make a good spot for pictures is a bit far fetched. But it is a fact I can do baby steps in the right direction without really going out of my way too much.

I am happy to present baby step number 1 today. Yes, the picture was taken with my phone. Yes, an Instagram filter was (carelessly) slapped on top but there is no actuall food on the picture so it doesn’t count? Here are my newly acquired matching toys to help me present my food better for pictures:
ImageSo pretty, don’t you agree?

Battle of the year: Buttercream vs. cream cheese frosting

Ever since I took that cupcake decorating course I wrote about a few weeks ago, one thought does not give me peace.Luckily I haven’t lost much sleep over it but it has kept me occupied during many times. And here it is…

Should you sacrifice flavor for looks and vice versa?

Let me explain: I personally do not like the taste of buttercream – I find it too sweet and too heavy. But it pipes so prettily! My absolute favorite (which comes down a treat with friends and family too) is cream cheese frosting. But I have so far not found a recipe which gives me the proper piping consistency for a (professional) nice finish. I am constantly on the lookout and keep experimenting but the fails prevail until now.

I honestly hope it is not just me who ends up with an extremely runny cream cheese frosting more times than willing to admit. Just last night I was trying out a new recipe I came across which promised nicely piped frosting. But I failed again – or my basic hand mixer which only has slow and fast let me down (I like to believe it is the latter otherwise I end up doubting if I am any good in the kitchen at all). As I write this, an emergency (recycled) cheesecake is in the oven – I didn’t have the heart to throw yet another bowl of runny icing, after my ridiculous cream cheese quest from the previous post, let alone all the nice ingredients which went is, as well as me spending plenty of time trying to make/fix it. 

So I need my dear readers’ advice – pretty please, share it in the comments or write me an email. What would you do? Try out new cream cheese frosting recipes until you find a fool-proof one or settle for buttercream which isn’t tasty but looks good? Help!

Feta & olive scones [+Recipe]

I’ve just popped the second and final batch of strawberry and white chocolate cupcakes in the oven and am contemplating a midnight-ish run to the supermarket (yes, it will be nearly 10pm by the time cupcakes are done, and yes, I am crazy but a supermarket kind of nearby now works till 12am so who am I to not take advantage of these new working hours, especially if I <sarcasm>so thoughtfully</sarcasm> forgot to buy the cheese for the frosting). And while the magic is happening in the oven and because I don’t want my dear readers to get diabetes from only reading my blog, I thought I’d share the result and recipe for my first (savory) attempt for scones. The recipe is courtesy of a Marks & Spencer’s baking cookbook and if you are lucky to have tried the Marks & Spencer’s food, you will know they know what they’re doing!

Feta & olive scones

What you need:
400g self raising flour
1/4 tsp salt
85g butter at room temperature (+extra for greasing – optional)
40g pitted black olives, chopped
40g sundried tomatoes in oil, drained and chopped
85g feta cheese, crumbled
200ml milk + extra for glazing

How to:
First preheat your oven to 220 degrees Celsius. If you have a baking sheet, grease it with a little butter. If not, line a tray with baking parchment (no need to grease it) – I used the parchment and it works just fine. Then sift the flour and salt in a large bowl. Now prepare to get messy: You need to add the soft butter to the flour and mix with your hands until it all looks like crumbs. The add the olives, feta cheese and tomatoes and mix it all. Start adding the milk, a little at a time, while kneading the dough. Your hands would be pretty sticky at this point, so pre-measure it (or call someone, if available, to help) in order to avoid having to wash your hands a million times. You need to have a soft (and not too sticky) dough at the end so knead until then. Roll out until you have a 3 cm thick sheet of dough – don’t worry, it won’t be all nice and smooth. Cut with round cutters or if you cannot be bothered like me, in squares, about 5-6 cm wide. Brush with milk, put on tray/baking sheet and bake for 12-15 minutes or until golden.

Serve warm with butter!
Feta & olive sconesNot bad for a first attempt at scones, eh? Also confirmed by the speed with which these (plus a few more) disappeared!

UPDATE: Don’t you just hate it when you go grocery shopping with a game plan, aka shopping list, with the (apparently false) security that you won’t forget anything because you have a list only to get home, start baking and realize you didn’t put everything you need on the list??? 

Also, clearly I am the last person to get the memo that said supermarket no longer works till midnight. Or was there no memo for going back to 10pm closing time despite them heavily advertising the new working hours? I guess I will never know. But fact is, I just walked nearly 40 minutes to it and back, crossed a rather windy runway twice and came back  without Philadelphia cream cheese.

On a different note, the petrol stations in Gibraltar which open after 10pm have an extensive selection of butter (I counted 5 different types in only one of them), it seems, but do not stock any cream cheese.

Buttercream frosting it is then. *Sigh*

My first cupcake order – EEEK!

Something very exciting happened to me last week! Until now baking was just a very enjoyable hobby of mine but I happened to receive my first cupcake order!!! At first I nearly said no: It was rather last minute, I had been already overly busy and it was for minion cupcakes – and I’d never attempted such fancy designs!

But as it was for a friend, I couldn’t say no. So there I was, painting little minion faces until 1am on a Thursday night… I think the result was pretty good but have a look yourselves:
ImageCould this be the first of many orders? I think only time will tell.