25 June 2012

A Lesson in Coffee Cupcakes

To celebrate my new-found summer freedom from all things uni (well nearly), I decided it was about time to do a bit of baking! I love cooking and baking in particular, but never seem to have the time to really indulge myself, instead opting for quick fail-safe recipes for every day and completely neglecting home-made treats. However, as I finally had a little time to spare I decided I would make some cup cakes to take with me to work on Friday morning.

Every time I decide to bake something the process of deciding exactly what seems to take longer and longer as my 'must bake' list continues to lengthen, so this time I decided to take requests. Coffee and walnut or lemon drizzle. Sorted. I sifted through my favourite cupcake book, Cupcake Heaven and decided to go for the posh coffee praline ones with the cool topping. Not quite coffee and walnut I know, but I was feeling adventurous.

Much to my dismay it wasn't until I read through the recipe as I was getting everything ready that I realised I would be needing a fairly hefty blender. Bummer. Lacking the time or the energy to change my plans and go and get more ingredients to make something different, I decided to make do and mend and made the cake base of the low-fat coffee and walnut cupcakes with the topping of the coffee praline ones. Ta Dah!

I have to admit it wasn't my most successful baking attempt so far due to somewhat overcooking the actual cakes. As my colleague put it, they tasted really good, but had a consistency a bit like compacted sand. It appears my usual method of judging when a cake is done by touch, colour and the trusty skewer test doesn't really work when the cake in question is butter free and therefore doesn't go golden brown no matter how long you cook them! On the plus side the topping and decoration went brilliantly, making up for the somewhat heavy foam, I mean sponge, that was the base.

My first attempt at the shards of hazelnut encrusted sugar didn't go quite as planned when following the book. It mostly seems to be a timing thing and I wasn't overly sure about the proportions described in the book, so I took the idea and ran with it, keeping the hazelnuts whole and adding ingredients until it looked 'right', whatever that is. It seemed to be a hit with everyone at work and the bag of leftover shards I took in got eaten pretty quickly. Needless to say I will definitely be playing with this idea some more and refining it further in the future! The failed batch, although turning out completely differently in taste and texture was also rather nice, so I think I'll have a go at recreating that in it's own right as well when I next get the opportunity. I had intended to take a photo of the failed batch, but, well, it never quite made it before getting eaten...

The topping was a bit of a revelation as well. It's the first time I've used a mascarpone based topping and I was pleasantly surprised. I'm not usually a fan of mascarpone, but the combination of the bitter coffee with the icing sugar and then the creamy texture really worked and provided much more scope for spreading than my usual coffee icing combo. Plus I love the gentle ripple effect you can get if you spread it on right.

I had a bit of the topping left over which I put in the fridge and tasted great eaten neat the next day. And yes, I did go there, but I was going away and the fridge needed emptying. What's a girl to do? Either way I'm definitely going to do a bit of experimentation to create my own goop pots as a posh and entirely evil pudding.

So it appears these little cakes have taught me a lot -
1. Always read the recipe through before even considering making anything new
2. Butter-free sponge doesn't go golden brown, just condenses.
3. Whatever the difference between blanched and roasted hazelnuts is, it doesn't make much difference when they're coated in sugar
And finally...
4. Molten sugar is extremely hot, stays so for quite some time after you take it off the heat and is very sharp when you snap it. And when I say it burns, I mean really, really burns. And sticks to you.


  1. They definately look amazing - so surely it doesn't matter that they didn't taste amazing?! xxx

    1. That's what I was hoping anyway!! To be honest the icing was nearly as thick as the cake, so it hid the slightly odd texture quite nicely xxx


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