cupcakes: pretty paper. true stories. {and scrapbooking classes with cupcakes.}

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The need for chocolate.

This is a need you understand, right? The need that, faced with two very challenging weeks, there is no such thing as too much chocolate. Chocolate cupcakes with chocolate filling and chocolate icing and chocolate sprinkles and two kinds of chocolate Malteasers.

But there is good news: my computer is back, in working order. The school stuff that was less than pleasant is not gone, but it is now to a point where we can breathe and look forward. We have two weeks until summer break here, and that will be a welcome event for pretty much everybody.

In the mean time, we eat chocolate.

It’s cheaper than therapy.

Serious Chocolate Cupcakes

Cake ingredients:
110g unsalted butter
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
150g brown sugar
100g sugar
175g plain flour
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 packet instant hot chocolate
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate soda
50ml single cream
125ml milk

Preheat oven to 180C and line cupcake tin with papers.

In a mixing bowl, beat butter until fluffy, then add sugars and beat until light and even. Add eggs and vanilla, mixing on low between each one.

Stir in remaining ingredients, then mix until an even consistency.

Fill cupcake papers just over halfway and bake for about 18 minutes. Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack. Make sure they are room temperature or chilled before adding filling.

Malted chocolate cream filling
200ml whipping cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
100g dark chocolate
50g light brown sugar
1 packet instant hot chocolate

Melt the chocolate in a glass bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Remove from heat and allow to rest until just warm.

In a separate bowl, mix the whipping cream and sugar on a high speed until the cream thickens. Add remaining ingredients and continue to mix on high. Stir in melted chocolate.

Chill until cold. Use a melon baller to remove the centre of each cupcake top and spoon cream into the cupcakes, then replace the tops.

Chocolate cream frosting
200ml whipping cream
50g unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
100g dark chocolate
50g light brown sugar
100g icing sugar (or more to taste)
1 packet instant hot chocolate.

Essentially, this is the same as the filling but with butter and more sugar. You may want to tweak amounts to match the chocolate you are using and your taste for dark to milk chocolate, but it is the same process as the above. Just beat the butter in the bowl first, then add the cream, then everything else.

Frost the cupcakes with a knife or spatula, then pile on chocolate sprinkles, Malteasers and any other chocolate you have left in your cupboard.


PS: if this weekend behaves as it should, I might actually do something crafty with paper! It it’s positively shocking, I know.

This and That and The Other

The impromptu departure from the internets? I think I can explain. You might remember this event of late last summer. After that sad moment, there were two full months of agony involving repairs, mistakes, more repairs, insurance companies, more repairs and formal complaints and finally one more repair. But even with all those repairs, the insurance company did not authorise the replacement of a £20 part that was damaged, as it was still functional.

Or at least it was until last week, when it sparked about a foot in the air, right through the speaker, as I was editing photos. Then nothing. No power. And much grumbling about insurance companies and repairs from me.

So right now I am once again waiting for the insurance company to make a decision. I can give my computer to them for an unknown amount of time, hope they fix something right, and not have to pay for any of the repair, since it’s still part of the first claim. Or I can take it to the shop myself, lose it for a few days and pay for it. Or I can scream out of a frustration and buy a shiny new one and promptly move my insurance policy.

In the meantime, I am not online much at all. Or offline. I can manage a bit here and there with some clever trickery. But mostly I am:

♥Marking exams
♥Drinking orange and cinnamon tea
♥Baking and eating orange and cinnamon and carrot cupcakes
♥Sewing dresses from curtain fabric
♥Wearing said dresses to both Singalonga Sound of Music and work
♥Rereading The Order of the Phoenix in anticipation of the event known as A Harry Potter movie with Helena Bonham-Carter
♥Preparing for some upcoming workshops here

If you feel like throwing the technology on the floor, here’s a recipe to give you something to do. And if you’re in this part of the world, you’ll have plenty of hours of daylight to do something this week.

♥Orange and Cinnamon and Carrot Cupcakes♥

60 mL vegetable oil
2 large eggs
100g sugar
100g brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon undiluted orange squash (or orange juice concentrate)
35g Bird’s custard powder (half a single serving packet)
200 mL boiling water
160g plain flour
1 teaspoon bicarbonate soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
2 medium sized carrots, grated

I felt like I was making this backward, but here’s how it went:
Start with most of the dry ingredients in the mixing bowl, including both sugars, flour, soda, cinnamon and cloves.
Mix the custard as you normally would—put the powder in the bottom of the gravy jug, boil the kettle and fill to the 200mL line. Stir until thickened.
Add the custard, oil, vanilla and orange squash and stir until well mixed. Add the eggs and mix until even.
Stir in the grated carrots at the last minute, just before you are ready to pour into the pan.
Fill cupcake papers 2/3 full. Bake 18-22 minutes, or until a chopstick comes out clean. Remove and let cool on a rack.

♥Orange and Cinnamon and Cream Cheese Icing♥

200g plain cream cheese
100g unsalted butter
400g icing sugar (more or less to taste)
40g brown sugar
2 tablespoons golden syrup
2 tablespoons cinnamon
1 tablespoon undiluted orange squash or juice concentrate
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
15g Dream Topping mix (half a packet)

Essentially, put it all in a bowl and mix it up. Clearly you’ll want to add the icing sugar a little bit at a time, unless you like the snowy-kitchen look.
The dream topping will make this go quite soft while you’re mixing—make it the night before, put it in the fridge, and it will ice just fine in the morning, and make it through the day on the table in the staffroom.

Garnish with more cinnamon, coconut flakes, walnuts, or whatever else seems to be handy.


Between L and N

We’ll see if the gremlins and gone away. It seems they have at least slowed down over the weekend. Silly gremlins. How dare they get in the way of cupcakes and paper crafts?

Speaking of cupcakes, it has been forever since I’ve been able to bake for Cupcake Thursdays, and I did promise to post this super easy recipe for someone who asked, so here we go.

A warning note: you can make this with Nestle’s “Smarties”:é%29, if you prefer, but I will think you are mad. You can make them with the positively heavenly UK creation known as Minstrels, and I will think they are too yummy to give away. Well, certainly not to children. Needless to say, if you count the enumbers in any of these sweets, the chocolates make this a non-organic recipe. Sorry…we all fall down somewhere, perhaps?

The M&Ms will sink to the bottom—I thought this would be a drawback, but the girls at work said it made the bottom of the cake like a candy bar. And that can’t be a bad thing! (Or…it could have just been our Thursday. Trust me.)

M&M Cupcakes

225g unsalted butter
200g dark chocolate
200g sugar
150g brown sugar
1 tablespoon seedless raspberry or strawberry jam
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
250g plain flour
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1 teaspoon bicarbonate soda
240mL (1 cup) buttermilk
As many M&Ms as you would like

Heat oven to 180C and line cupcake tin with papers.

Melt butter and chocolate in a bowl sat over a saucepan of simmering water. Once melted, remove from heat and stir in both sugars and jam.

Once cooled enough not to cook the eggs, add the eggs and vanilla and mix until even.

Add remaining ingredients except the M&Ms, stir in, then mix until even again.

Fill papers halfway. Drop in a few M&Ms and bake immediately, for about 18 minutes (shorter if you are making smaller cakes), or until a chopstick comes out clean.

Remove from tin and let cool. Ice with your favourite vanilla or chocolate frosting recipe, then decorate with more M&Ms and chocolate sprinkles.


PS: This website is helpful if you prefer cups to grams!

Blueberry Morning

I’m totally cheating. This is not a cupcake. This is a muffin. Which means this is not a cupcake Thursday. But it’s also not a work Thursday, which is kinda like cheating in and of itself, so why the heck not, right?

It’s been a funny half-term. The day before a school break, we get a note that reminds us of what time the school will open and close each day, in case we want to come in and work in our classrooms while class is not in session. This is something I have done more days than I can count over my teaching career, but by this time of the school year, everybody needs a break. Especially when I realise that a ton of schools are already breaking for summer and we have several weeks left, right through to the middle of July, and oh, did I mention we are not an air conditioned building? That summer session is such a challenge. It should never make a teacher feel guilty to take this break as a real break, and yet that guilt often creeps in by Thursday or Friday. This time, I got a note explaining that I could not go in, as my classroom would be part of some electrical work! Hurrah—it feels strangely free to know I just can’t go in and I have to take my holiday! Hurrah.

So, with a smaller audience, I thought I’d try just a little batch of blueberry muffins, and by kismet blueberries were even on sale. This made an even dozen; perfect for keeping a few and sharing a few. And posing with random plants, apparently.

85g unsalted butter
3/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 cup plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp bicarb soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup sour cream
1/8 cup milk
A big coffee cup full of blueberries, washed and stems removed

Preheat oven to 180C and place liners in muffin tin. (ha! It’s the same thing as a cupcake tin! Sorry. I am easily amused.)

Beat butter and sugar together with a mixer until fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla and mix until even.

Add all remaining ingredients except for blueberries. Stir in, then mix on low speed until evenly distributed.

Fold in blueberries.

Scoop into tin, filling papers 3/4 full. Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until set with golden tops.

Serve with coffee, adorable hedgie tea towels from The Black Apple and randomly placed plants, for good measure.


Quick Fix

Okay, so normally I want to avoid cake mix like the plague. Not because it’s bad, but because I enjoy making the cake from scratch.

Wait. That just made the whole ‘like the plague’ thing not make sense. The plague IS bad. That’s the point of it being THE PLAGUE, right? You don’t want to avoid the plague because you enjoy something else. You want to avoid the plague because you don’t want to ruin-absolutely-everything. Okay. That’s sorted. I can never say ‘like the plague’ again. If I do, feel free to commit me being hit with stones in the public square or something else suitable.

I will admit that baking from scratch is not always the most practical of matters, and I also know that there are women out there who make AMAZING cakes who secretly swear by their favourite cake mixes. They’ll never tell you it’s not from scratch, and I can’t blame ‘em.

So if you’ve gotta come up with the cupcakes on the quick and you don’t want to get caught out with your cake mix, here are my favourite fix-em-ups:

Chocolate cake mix + 1/2 cup cherry or raspberry jam added to the mixing bowl.
Vanilla cake mix + 1/2 packet of any fruit flavoured gelatin (the powdered kind rather than the gelled kind—we have both in the UK)
Vanilla cake mix + 1/3 cup sprinkles mixed in right at the last minute before it goes in the oven = confetti cake
Vanilla or chocolate cake mix + chocolate chips. Because you can never go wrong adding more chocolate, right?
Carrot cake mix + 1/2 cup extra thick cream for a carrot cake with a softer, steamed-pudding type texture

Now…I do well with the dessert shortcuts. I am not so good with the dinner shortcuts. Care to share your best make it good-but make it quick tip today? Since we’re sharing the love and all.


Eat your heart out

We’ve been on a real mango kick here. The boy mastered a gorgeous veggie & mango curry, we’ve been making mango frapuccino lassi in our new blender (we so love a good bargain gadget!) and with one mango left in the fruit bowl, cupcakes seemed a must.

Instead of icing, we served these with a marshmallowy sauce and mango puree. Summer yum. So I thought I’d share the love.

Mango Cupcakes
(makes about 20 standard sized cupcakes)

1 US stick or 1/2 UK stick unsalted butter (about 125g)
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs, separated
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups plain flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
1/2 cup coconut milk (or regular milk if you don’t like coconut)
1 very ripe mango, mashed
1/3 cup mango puree (tinned or fresh, although you may need to add a bit of sugar to the fresh)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

Heat oven to 180C/350F and line cupcake tin with papers.

With butter at room temperature, beat with an electric mixer until fluffy. Add sugar and mix on high for another two minutes.
Mix in egg yolks and vanilla until even.
Add flour, baking powder, spices and salt in alternation with coconut milk and mango puree. Mix on low until even.
Stir in mashed mango until well distributed.
In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites and cream of tartar until stiff peaks form.
Stir into the cake mixture.
Pour immediately into cupcake papers, about 3/4 full.
Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until a chopstick comes out clean.

Mango Marshmallow Cream
(makes a big bowl)

4 egg whites
1 cup sugar
1 US stick or 1/2 UK stick unsalted butter (about 125g)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup mango puree

With the whisk attachment on an electric mixer, whisk egg whites and sugar in a glass bowl, over a saucepan of simmering water. Continue to whisk until mixture is thick and hot to the touch.
Remove from heat and mix in butter, in small pieces.
Add remaining ingredients and continue to mix until well distributed, with a fluffy marshmallow consistency.
Let cool and serve over cakes, with additional mango puree drizzled on top.

Whatever your heart-shaped desserts this week, I hope you’ll share the love!


What you've always wanted

So yes, cupcakes that I worry could result in a ‘cease & desist’ email, but I’ve done a bit of searching and I don’t think Starbucks have actually registered a trademark for the Gingerbread Latte, so hopefully I shall be fine.

In all seriousness, this is the thought process behind this cupcake:
1. Gingerbread = yum.
2. Coffee = yum.
3. If it works in a drink, surely it can work in a cupcake.

And all I know is this: normally, our tray of cupcakes on Cupcake Thursdays lasts right to the end of the day. Not like lots left over, but sometimes just one or two. This Thursday I walked into the office at 11am and they were all gone.

That’s really all the justification you needed, right?

Without further adieu then:

Gingerbread Latte Cupcakes
with Ginger Spice Buttercream Icing

Cake ingredients:
350g unsalted butter
300g dark brown sugar
3 large eggs
1 double espresso (about 100mL)
200g plain flour
100g self-raising flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon bicarbonate soda
2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
3 tablespoons dark treacle // moleasses
100mL double cream
1 tablespoon gingerbread syrup (optional)
Ginger preserves (optional)

Heat oven to 180C and line cupcake tin with papers. This made 24 standard sized cupcakes.

Make a double espresso and sit aside to cool. If you can’t make espresso at home, use about a half cup of strong black coffee.

In a mixing bowl, beat room temperature butter until soft and fluffy, then add sugar and mix well. Add each egg, mixing in between.
Stir in espresso.
Add the flour and other dry ingredients and continue to mix. Fold in cream and treacle and mix until even, making sure the treacle isn’t just stuck to the bowl or the beaters.

If you are a Starbucks Gingerbread Latte addict, you can add their syrup to make it taste as close to the drink as possible. If you just like ginger and coffee, then this is totally optional.

Once this is mixed, it should have a mousse-like texture. Scoop into the cups, filling just over halfway. Bake for about 18 minutes, or until a chopstick comes out clean. Let cakes cool on a wire rack.

When totally cool, use a melon baller to scoop out the centre of a cupcake, then fill with a teaspoon of ginger preserves (found with the jams at the supermarket) and replace the top of the cake. It’s not too sweet and will keep the cakes moist longer…in theory. I didn’t get to test that, really.

Icing ingredients:
300g unsalted butter at room temperature
Icing sugar to taste—around 300-400g
1 teaspoon ginger extract/flavouring
1 teaspoon gingerbread syrup (optional)
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon…plus extra for dusting
2 tablespoons marshmallow fluff
food colouring (optional)
crystallised ginger pieces for the top

In a mixing bowl, beat butter until fluffy. Mix in part of the icing sugar until consistency is even. Then add all the rest—same thing as above for the gingerbread syrup—and mix well. Continue to add more icing sugar until it reaches the sweetness and thickness you like.

As British butter is very yellow, I sometimes find it’s tough to get icing to a nice colour without food colouring. I actually just added a little brown to this one so it would tone it down from the happy yellow and look a bit more gingery. You could make it any colour you like, but just remember the flecks from the cinnamon will show, even if you decide to make it neon green.

Spread on cooled cupcakes with a knife or a piping bag, and dust with more cinnamon. Add crystallised ginger to the tops of some cupcakes and you’re done!


I know that we should

Is it really Thursday? Where are the days going, exactly? I’d quite like to find the abyss where they seem to be landing lately. It’s okay though. Things are busy and crazy but happy and good.

I think these cupcakes are actually my most derivative recipe, but everyone has a few dishes that they wouldn’t have gotten just right without help from someone else right? Many a cupcake fan knows Chockylit’s recipes. I love her site for the methods she uses as well as the photos, which are always gorgeous. She uses ingredients one might never think about including in cupcakes and her explanations make big culinary words nice and simple.

Thing is, we’re on two different continents, so we have slightly different ingredients from time to time. This definitely looked like the best chocolate/mint recipe I’d found, but it’s nigh on impossible to get fresh mint this time of year in this part of the world. And I wanted it to complement an After 8 mint. And I cook with different chocolate…that sorta thing. So there’s just a bit of changing here and there…but it’s all good.

Mint Chocolate Christmas Cupcakes
{adapted from Chockylit’s Rich Chocolate and Mint Recipe}

Cake Ingredients:
200g dark chocolate (72% min)
400g unsalted butter
500g sugar
8 large eggs
200g flour
50g cocoa powder
1.5 teaspoons baking powder
1.5 teaspoons peppermint flavouring
pinch of salt

Okay…it feels wrong to even type these instructions out in my own words because these I made just like hers and she explains it very well. I did add the peppermint just after the eggs…wow for a big change there.

Filling Ingredients:
100g dark chocolate (72%)
100ml double cream
30g unsalted butter
6 marshmallows
4 peppermint tea bags
75g sugar

Heat the cream on low in a saucepan with the peppermint tea bags, stirring frequently. Don’t let the cream boil, just thicken. On my cooker this took about 4 minutes. Remove from heat and remove the tea bags.
Melt the chocolate, marshmallows and butter in a glass bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Once this is about half melted, add the cream and sugar and stir to combine. Heat until all melted, then remove from heat and allow to cool for about 15 minutes. Stir again to make sure the sugar melted in rather than sinking to the bottom, then sit it in the fridge to set until you need it.

Icing Ingredients:
350g unsalted butter*
1 teaspoon peppermint flavouring (I couldn’t get extract…but I’ll be on the lookout!)
3 tablespoons double cream
Icing sugar to taste (at least 300g)

In a mixing bowl, beat room temperature butter until fluffy, then add the other ingredients and mix well. Add icing sugar gradually and stir in with a spatula before turning on the mixer. Remember the sweetness of buttercream fades in a few hours, so make it a bit sweeter than you want or it will taste like butter tomorrow morning. I did use a bit of food colouring to make these a minty green…that is optional of course.

Putting it all together…

This week I invested in a melon baller. For ages I’ve been cutting divets in my cupcakes with a knife and, well, I’m not so great with a knife. I had actually thought about asking for a melon baller for Christmas, but when I saw one yesterday for an entire £1.99, I decided to just go for it. Turns out this is perfect and I am entirely childish for not trying it before. There ya go.

Use the melon baller on the top of each cupcake…spoon in a bit of filling and replace the cake. Ice with a knife or a piping bag. Chop After 8 mints in half and add to the top, then add a few chocolate sprinkles.

*I’ve been searching high and low for how to get the consistency I want in a buttercream, but I kept getting something that was too soft and a bit too oily. I kept trying different English butters and such…and I’ve finally found it. It’s Countrylife. It’s not organic…but if I’ve already gotten into a food colouring, marshmallow and flavouring binge, I think I can let go of organic butter for just a little bit. I suppose. Seeing as it is apparently the best selling butter in the country, let’s not discuss how I missed its wonders all this time.

I blame the layout of the shelves at my local Sainsbury’s, clearly.


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