Friday, March 12, 2010

Sydney plus more cupcakes

We just came back from a short holiday in Sydney.  This trip was a very nice change for us since being a big family, it is just too costly for us to go on trips regularly.  It was actually my first time to go interstate after nine years in Australia!

We stayed in a serviced apartment right in the heart of the city.  The view was great from our window on the 45th floor...

But what excited me more than the great view was that the apartment was situated right next to this shop.

I hardly ever go to shops like this so I was thrilled to just see all those gorgeous cupcakes!  All of the cupcakes were $2.50 AUD @ (roughly $2.29 USD).  They were small, only about 2/3 the standard size.  While there was a huge variety of flavours, most of the cupcakes were just either vanilla or chocolate.  The flavours were actually in the frosting.  My daughter and I bought a box of 6 to share with the rest of the family.  How were the cupcakes, you may ask?

They were just ok...nothing extra special about them.  Looked better than they actually tasted.  Even for the small size, I would not really crave for another one. Having said that, I really thought my home baked cupcakes were heaps tastier.

Before we left for Melbourne, my daughter wanted to buy one more cupcake, the chocolate with the peppermint frosting.  We ran out of time to pass by the shop though.

Yesterday, on my trip to the supermarket, I saw some Nestle chocolate blocks on sale.  I had a great idea.  I wanted to surprise my daughter when she came home from school today.

My recreation of the Chocolate Peppermint Cupcake!

These are chocolate cupcakes (again, my aunt's old recipe) topped with fluffy (or seven minute) peppermint frosting and crushed Nestle Aero Peppermint Chocolate.

My comment on my cupcakes? They were yummy, light and moist.  Personally, though, I would have preferred a richer chocolate taste as the peppermint flavour can be a bit overpowering.  Devil's Food cupcakes would have been more appropriate with this frosting. No complaints from the kids...they loved it as is.

How proud I am that I can bake. You can too, of course!  Here you go...enjoy this recipe!

CHOCO-PEPPERMINT CUPCAKES (Makes 18 standard sized cupcakes)

Chocolate Cupcake

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup boiling water
1 2/3 cups plain (all-purpose) flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter
1 1/2 cups white sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Line your muffin tins with baking cups.  Preheat oven to 180 degrees C or 350 degrees F.

Dissolve cocoa powder in boiling water.  Set aside to cool.

In a small bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Set aside.

In a large bowl, on medium speed of an electric mixer, cream the butter until smooth.  Add the sugar and beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Alternately add the flour and cooled cocoa mixture in three parts, beating only until ingredients are incorporated.  Do not overbeat.  Scrape down the batter in the bowl occasionally to make sure all the ingredients are well blended.

Divide the batter into baking cups, filling them to about 2/3 full.  Bake for about 25 minutes.  Cool cupcakes in the tins for about 5 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

When cool, frost cupcakes with Fluffy Frosting and if desired, top with crushed peppermint flavoured chocolate.

Fluffy Peppermint Frosting

1 cup caster sugar
1/3 cup water
2 egg whites
1/2 teaspoon peppermint essence
green gel paste

Combine sugar and the water in small saucepan; stir over heat, without boiling, until sugar is dissolved. Boil uncovered, without stirring, about 5 minutes or until syrup reaches 116C on a candy thermometer. Syrup should be thick but not coloured. Remove syrup from heat, allow bubbles to subside.

Beat egg whites in small bowl with electric mixer until soft peaks form. While motor is operating, add hot syrup in a thin stream; beat on high speed about 10 minutes or until mixture is thick.  Add peppermint essence and enough green gel paste to achieve desired colour.

Makes 2 1/2 cups.  More than enough to make high swirly tops for your cupcakes!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Green Tea Chiffon Cake : An Experiment

My sister in law's friend (I am not comfortable to call her MY friend just yet as I hardly know her) rang me yesterday to ask if I could help her make a cake.  Her husband, a psychiatrist, has been taking a series of exams he needed for his profession, and today was his last exam.  She wanted to surprise him.

I asked her what sort of cake her health-conscious husband would like.  She suggested green tea.  Of all cakes she could have thought of!  For one, I haven't tried baking green tea cake before (only cupcakes) and secondly, I was afraid I was going to risk wasting my precious (expensive) matcha powder.

But I am not one to back out of a cake challenge, daunting as it was.  (I say daunting because I have been told how very important aesthetics was to the husband!)  My initial idea was to combine green tea with chocolate. Here's how my green tea cake experiment went.

I used my aunt's basic chiffon cake recipe, only altering it to add in the matcha powder. I knew that by using a regular round pan, instead of a tube pan, I would not achieve the maximum height for the cake. My baking pan was 9" round, 3" high.

This was the cake after being halved horizontally. The colour was very "matcha-like".

I had some thickened cream and dark chocolate in the fridge.  What better way to use them up than for chocolate ganache?  I made half of this recipe to use as a filling.

Looked good so far...

My choice of frosting was Martha Stewart's Swiss Meringue Buttercream (chocolate variation).  

This was the crumb coat.  I did the laundry and washed the dishes while waiting for this layer to dry a bit.

Now fully frosted with borders!  At this point, I was feeling quite good and confident.

I had no idea how I was going to finish off the cake.  I decided to do something similar to one of the cakes I recently made.  I have to be honest...I stuffed up.  I could not pipe out leaves correctly and my writing was way terrible....I wish I could have done this better...I really need to practice...(sigh)

Don't ask where that name came from!  It's short for some foreign sounding name.

I got a call this afternoon and was given the good news that the cake was delicious.  The good doctor said the cake was moist and not too sweet and that the taste was sophisticated (TRANSLATION: The bitterness of the green tea blended well with the chocolate!).

So, was the experiment a success?  I guess so.  But until I have a taste of the cake myself, I do not want to make any conclusions.  The recipe for Green Tea Chiffon Cake follows.  You might be interested to do your own experimenting!



1 1/2 cups cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons matcha (green tea) powder

4 egg yolks
1/3 cup canola oil
1/2 cup water (or milk would probably be better)

4 egg whites
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

1/2 cup sugar


1.  Preheat oven to 175 degrees Celsius.
2.  In a large bowl, combine {A} well.  Add in {B}.  Beat with electric mixer or by hand until smooth and well blended.
3.  In a separate bowl, beat {C} on high speed until frothy.  Gradually add in {D} and beat until stiff peaks are formed.  Gradually and gently fold in egg whites into egg yolk mixture.  Pour batter into an ungreased 9" round, 3" high pan lined with parchment paper at the bottom (or a 9" tube pan). 
4.  Bake for about 45 minutes or until top springs back when lightly touched.  Invert pan into wire rack immediately and cool completely.
5.  Carefully run a thin knife around sides of pan and invert cake onto a serving plate.