Thursday, 17 April 2014

Mexican spiced chocolate orange cake


I am breaking all my rules and posting this cake out of order because I saw a food blog challenge that I wanted to enter!


This was the birthday cake I made for myself last weekend. I'm currently obsessed with all things Mexican, and one of my favourite desserts in history is the spiced chocolate orange fudge cake from Las Iguanas - if you haven't tried it, you really should. I can never resist it! So I decided to try and recreate the flavours of my favourite dessert.

I tweaked a recipe for chocolate spiced cupcakes that I saw in the Primrose Bakery: Celebrations book (rather embarrassingly in the 'teenage boy birthday party' section). Seemed like bit of an odd recipe - it involved melting butter and chocolate, then stirring in the sugar, dry ingredients and the eggs at the end. It made for an incredibly runny cake batter and I was feeling dubious... a feeling which intensified when the cakes didn't rise very much and seemed rather heavy when I took them out of the tins.


Not to worry though, if I do say so myself, I loved the flavour. I was surprised by the texture, especially considering it was a cupcake recipe  - the cake was almost torte or truffle-like. Unless I did something wrong in the mixing, I couldn't imagine how these would turn out if they were cupcakes! Either way, despite the texture not being quite what I had been hoping for, it still tasted good and really, the texture did make for a good 'dessert' type cake. I loved that the orange flavour really came through, and tasted great with an undercurrent of warmth from the cinnamon.


By far the most fun part was making the candy skull decorations! It's not really the season for Dia de los Muertos but what the hell - it's my birthday I can celebrate the dead if I want to! All that was required was some white chocolate skulls from the local pic 'n' mix purveyors, some silver balls (is dragees the technical term?) and a few tubes of writing icing in lovely bright colours. After a quick perusal of Google images I set about decorating the skulls and spent a very happy hour or so making pretty patterns on the skulls. It's not often I can 'freestyle' especially when it comes to decorating so I was rather chuffed with my efforts. Even if you're not decorating a cake with them, it's really a great way to spend an afternoon!

Here is the recipe I used:

For the cake:
250g Stork
210g dark chocolate with orange (I used Asda Extra Special Ivory Coast dark chocolate with orange)
330ml milk
185g golden caster sugar
210g self raising flour
40g cocoa powder
2 tsp ground cinnamon
3 eggs, beaten
grated zest of 2 oranges

For the icing:
350g dark chocolate
1 tsp ground cinnamon
225g unsalted butter, room temperature
250g icing sugar, sifted
1 tbsp semi skimmed milk
1 tsp vanilla extract

For the decoration:
8 white chocolate skull sweets
16 silver dragees
tubes of writing icing

1. Grease and line 3 18cm sandwich tins, and preheat oven to 180c.
2. Melt the butter and chocolate in a large heatproof bowl set over a pan of just simmering water, taking care that the bowl doesn't touch the water.
3. Remove from the heat and stir in the milk until combined. Add the sugar.
4. Sift the flour, cocoa and cinnamon in to the batter, add the orange zest and fold until well mixed.
5. Add the eggs and beat until combined.
6. Divide the batter between the tins and bake for around 30 mins, until a skewer comes out clean.
7. Cool in the tins for 5 minutes then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
8. While the cakes cool, make the icing. Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Leave to cool slightly and then beat in the cinnamon.
9. In an electric mixer, beat together the butter, icing sugar, milk and vanilla extract until smooth. Add the melted chocolate and beat again until thick and creamy.
10. Decorate the candy skulls - I piped a blob of black icing into the eye sockets to stick in the silver dragees first for the eyes. Then go crazy on the rest of the decoration!
11. Sandwich the cake layers together with a few tablespoons of icing, and spread a generous amount on the top.
12. Decorate with the candy skulls once their icing decorations have set.


As it turns out, I could have saved myself the effort as my wonderful boyfriend Mike presented me with a candy skull cake the next day on my birthday! I should point out that it was from the local bakery and not made by him... much to everyone's relief! Here is the beauty:


So I'm sending my Mexican spiced chocolate orange cake to The Spice Trail, a monthly blog challenge hosted by Bangers and Mash, with this month being Mexican Month.

Saturday, 5 April 2014

Toffee Popcorn cupcakes


Isn't it ace when you decide you want to make some cupcakes and you know you've got just the right cases for them? That's what happened here. Almost two years ago I bought these cupcake cases because I loved the red stripey ones - they made me think of popcorn and also for some reason, the circus (?!). So when I discovered a bag of toffee popcorn in the cupboard at Christmas - seriously, I have no idea where it came from! - I decided to make these popcorn cupcakes from the Hummingbird Bakery Home Sweet Home book to take along to a post Christmas gathering with some friends and I knew these cases would be perfect for them.


These cupcakes were so light and fluffy with nice little crunchy toffee bursts hiding inside! The frosting was very sweet and you didn't need a lot of it - for that reason, even though the cases worked well with the cupcakes they also made them very difficult to eat... it was so hard to peel them out of the cases, and even when you'd done that the cakes are quite deep so hard to get that perfect mouthful of cake plus frosting (at least without dislocating your jaw). So, I think a lot of people resorted to eating off the frosting first and then wrestling with the cake cases to eat the cake, when I think these are cupcakes that really need to be eaten as one with the topping.


Anyway, I would still use these cases every time as they fit the popcorn cupcakes so well... the only other annoyance was that there wasn't 12 stripey ones, so there are two rogue dotty cases in there!


Here's the recipe, if you want to try them yourselves.

70g unsalted butter, softened
210g plain flour
250g caster sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
210ml whole milk
2 large eggs
80g toffee popcorn

Preheat oven to 170c and line a 12 hole deep muffin tin with cases.
Mix the butter, flour, sugar, baking powder and salt together in an electric mixer until they have a crumb like consistency.
Mix together the eggs and milk in a jug by hand.
With the mixer on a slow speed, gradually pour half the egg/milk mixture into the mixer and mix until combined. Increase the speed to medium and mix until the batter is smooth and thick, and no lumps remain.
Turn the speed back to low and gradually pour in the remaining egg/milk mixture, and continue to mix until the batter is smooth and combined.
Spoon the batter into the cases, filling them two thirds full. Place four pieces of popcorn onto each unbaked cupcake.
Bake for 20-25 minutes until the sponge bounces back when lightly touched. Leave to cool slightly before removing from the tin and transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

500g icing sugar, sifted
160g unsalted butter, softened
50ml whole milk
60g toffee popcorn, chopped
50g toffee popcorn, to decorate

Mix the icing sugar and butter together in an electric mixer on low speed until combined and no large lumps of butter remain. Gradually pour in the milk with the mixer still on a low speed. When the milk is incorporated, increase the speed to high and beat until light and fluffy. Stir the chopped popcorn through the frosting, and mix until incorporated. Top the cupcakes with the frosting and decorate with the leftover popcorn.


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