Vanilla Cupcakes with Swiss Meringue Buttercream

I’ve discovered that I can’t seem to make macarons in my current oven. Mega sad face. I’ve made several cracked pied-less batches but I can’t quite figure out what I am doing wrong here, or what exactly is the difference between my old oven and this one.

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On the other hand, I have had a lot more success with cakes. I decided to bake a batch of cupcakes to cheer myself up with the failed macaron attempts, and used some cute new polka-dot pattered cases.
DSC_0457I decided to try out a new recipe for meringue icing from Dan Lepard’s Short and Sweet. Although I freaked out slightly at the part where I had to cook egg whites and sugar in a saucepan, it was suprisingly easy. An extra bonus is I find this creamy buttercream far more palatable than the traditional half butter to icing sugar kind.

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I didn’t have my usual star-shaped nozzle to hand so splodged the buttercream on with a plain tipped  one instead, and had a bit of fun with the mini gummy sweets…

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I wasn’t totally happy with my icing technique, but A took some photos where they do look very pretty in their sweet swirly glory. Plenty of practising still needed, and considering the wedding cake I’ve been comissioned for has turned into cupcakes, there will likely be many many more cropping up onto this blog in the next coming twelve months. So be prepared for cupcakes galore!

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Marbled Chocolate Crumble Cake

When I first took this cake out of the oven, I laughed because it looked so unattractive. The baking paper shielded the cake on all sides, and all I could see was a pile of brown chocolatey rubble.

But but but, don’t be deceived by first impressions. Once you cut into this cake, you get an eyeful of beautifully light marbled sponge, melty studs of chocolate, all combined with a crumbly crunchy topping.

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It’s another winner by Dan Lepard, whose cookbook I am continuing to wax lyrical about. What can I say? It’s just full of stuff I want to bake. Twists on the traditional, nothing looks too scary, nothing that takes several days (apart from the sourdough starter). The recipe is on The Guardian from the (much missed) days when he wrote a regular baking column.

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I got home from work at 6pm, left the ingredients to get to room temperature while I headed out for a quick run, came back and combined everything together. So, it was all out of the oven and ready to be consumed by 8pm, yummy yum.

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Fresh out of the oven, the cake was bouncily light, rich and absolutely delicious. Once cold, it settles into a firmer texture that is perfect packaged up for lunches or snacks. Generous squares, delicate slices…however you fancy. You can see which option I’ve gone for!

I could probably have swirled the sponges together a little more, but you can see how well the light vanilla sponge contrasts with its darker, chocolatey cousin. The downside of winter weekday baking is that I didn’t get a chance to take any photos in actual daylight, but I think these turned out reasonably well with the aid of some extra light and of course, my new cake stand. It’s so quintessentially girly – pink with a frilled edge – and I LOVE it.

Dark Chocolate Chunk Cookies

There are a lot of pretty damn good cookie recipes out there, and this chocolate one by Dan Lepard is no exception. These cookies are comfortingly weighty in the palm of your hand, and are absolutely choc-a-block crammed full of dark chocolate chunks, melting into tiny rivulets and puddles that you just want to lick off.

Very lightly adapted from Dan Lepard’s Short and Sweet, they pack a fantastic chocolatey punch. In my case, a slightly boozy aftertaste too, thanks to my homemade vanilla extract, which is currently approximately 50% vodka, 49.999% brandy, and 0.001% vanilla seeds. Tis no bad thing. Hic.

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It was dark when I baked these (being a January weekday) so here’s a quick iPhone snap.

I keep meaning to bake more from Short and Sweet as Dan Lepard’s recipes tend to be so reliable and produce great results. For instance, the ratio of ingredients here is incredibly similar to that of Dorie Greenspan/Pierre Hermé’s Korova cookies. I didn’t get along with that cookie recipe at all, which resulted in epic cookie spreadage, but this one worked beautifully.

Anyways, super happy I have a tub filled with these to keep me going for the rest of the working week (and weekend) yum!

Dark Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Adapted from Dan Lepard’s Short and Sweet

  • 125g butter, softened
  • 150g dark brown sugar
  • 50g golden caster sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 small egg
  • 175g strong white flour
  • 25g cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 200g dark chocolate, chopped into chunks

Preheat the oven to 180˚C. Beat the butter together with the sugars and vanilla extract until creamy. Then mix in the egg, followed by the flour, cocoa powder and bicarbonate of soda. Stir in the chocolate chunks, then roll into balls with your hands, then place on a baking tray, well spaced apart, and bake for around 14 minutes until puffed and starting to colour at the edges. Cool for a few minutes on a tray before transferring onto a cooling rack.

Scones

Anyone who knows me well will know that I love scones. I had a strong hankering after some today, and being rainy, it seemed like the perfect baking weather. I wanted to try out Dan Lepard’s recipe for his Everyday Scones, which changes the original method to mix together natural yoghurt, a small amount of sugar and some cream in with flour and raising agent. I didn’t have the exact ingredients available, so I used self-raising flour instead of adding bicarbonate and cream of tartar – and single cream was on offer so I used that instead of the double cream Dan Lepard states in his recipe.

I also made some fruit scones by adding a handful of sultanas to my go-to scone recipe. I used single cream here as I was trying to use it up but personally I would stick to milk as cream imparts too rich a flavour which is slightly sickening.

Although it is not essential to eggwash the tops of the scones before baking, they do go a beautiful golden colour which makes them look infinitely more tempting. The Dan Lepard scones came out looking a bit neater, but I think the lopsided nature of the fruited scones may have been thanks to the presence of the sultanas, which I imagine have have a distorting effect on the rise.

I managed to go for a run this morning. It was very difficult getting myself going, I was horribly congested, and I think a lot of passersby looked at me like I was mad, but I did it! Woohoo. Felt fine afterwards, no worse, but no better than before. I think being in a steamy kitchen baking helped a lot though! 😀

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