Chocolate Chip Cupcakes

Today has been one of those days where I hardly have had time to catch my breath. Before I’m done with what I’m doing, it’s time for something else. The day began with baking a huge batch of cupcakes. Approximately 70 cupcakes in all. Given that my oven is not large by any standards, you can imagine how much time was spent there. Although I’m not complaining, because any work that involves cakes and baking is always a pleasure for me. Even if current logistical problems present some inconveniences.

It has not always been like that I assure you. My kitchen used to be equipped with a nice, large, built-in oven, one that many a baker would be envious of. Huge and numerous drawers and cabinets contained my never-ending supplies of baking and decorating tools. Alas, all that is no more and no more is my kitchen nor my home. No, I’ve not sold my home in an attempt to pay my gambling debts. It’s been broken down to make way for a bigger, better home and I can’t wait for it to be ready. Meanwhile I’ve to make do with the equipment I’m provided with. Nope, not complaining.

Anyway, so those 70 cupcakes were not for myself. They were actually commissioned by my niece as a treat for her friends and classmates on her upcoming birthday. My little madame was very specific on what she wanted. Chocolate Chip Cupcakes with Buttermilk flavored Buttercream. The buttercream should be either in a shade of English rose Pink or a shade of Pink violet. All this from a yet-to-be 7 year old.

I decided to use pretty pink polka-dotted cupcake cases to show off the English rose pink buttercream. The chocolate chip cupcakes themselves were quite simple to mix up since the recipe holds up extremely well to multiplying the quantity. I increased the quantity by four times and it still turned out perfect. Even the resting period outside the oven, waiting for the batches of cupcakes to be baked, did not affect the quality. I used the vanilla cake recipe I’ve provided on this website and all I did different was to multiply the quantity by four times and stir in about 2 cups of chocolate chips right at the end. If you want to bake a normal quantity, use the recipe as it is and stir in about 1/2 cup of chocolate chips at the end.

The buttermilk flavored buttercream was not only super delicious, but it was also super easy to mix up. All you need to do is beat a cup of butter (about 225g) for a minute and then add 3cups of pure icing sugar to the mix and beat for about 2 to 3 minutes at low speed. Add in a teaspoon of buttermilk flavoring and beat for a few seconds. The buttercream is now ready to use. At this point you can divide the buttercream and mix in different colouring as desired. I used 1.5 times the quantity to frost all my cupcakes.

A simple swirl of buttercream on the cupcake looks not only sophisticated but also very professional. Do read my page on piping techniques for guidance on creating the swirl.

With that, I wish you best of luck and my little niece, a very Happy Birthday in advance!

Banana Cupcakes

In my home, there is a clear, distinct division: Those who like bananas and those who will have absolutely nothing to do with the fruit. It’s extremely surprising, then, that everyone wants  their share whenever I bake up these banana cupcakes. It’s a feat, really, because these very people who wax lyrical about these little goodies are the very same people who would not touch a fresh banana. I have no idea, maybe the final baked taste of the bananas in the cakes is a lot more palatable to them. Needless to say, those who already like the fruit can’t wait for these to come out of the oven so that they can get their hands on them.

The recipe for these banana cupcakes uses the basic vanilla cake recipe that I have provided on this website as a base. To mix up a batch of these, you will need about 3 to 4 medium sized bananas that are well mashed. Its best to use bananas that are over-ripe. When they reach that state of ripeness where you don’t feel like eating them anymore because they are too soft, don’t throw them away: It’s the perfect time to use them in your baking. The riper the fruit is, the richer and stronger the flavour of the baked goods will be. You will also need half a cup of buttermilk, which basically replaces the milk required for in the vanilla cake recipe. The use of buttermilk gives a more intense and creamy flavour to the final product.

It’s a simple enough recipe. Follow the steps of the vanilla cake till step 4. Then, add in the mashed bananas and beat the mixture well, till well combined. Add a teaspoon of baking powder to the sifted flour before folding it in alternately with the buttermilk (instead of milk as required in the vanilla cake recipe) into the banana and butter mixture. Follow the rest of the steps as per normal.

This recip provides a great way of getting some fruit into your child’s diet plus you feel less guilty eating it because of the fruit content in it.

Orange-Chocolate Chip Cake

“What can be better than a chocolate chip cake?,” I wondered out aloud and the answer that came at me was fast but firm. Z, without batting an eyelid, stated that it would have to be an orange flavoured choc chip cake. Well, I’ve always been one of those people who picks out the orange flavoured chocolate first from the assorted chocolates packets so the moment she suggested it, I knew that it was going to hit the right notes. Indeed I had no doubts that the addition of orange would heighten it’s flavor to a totally new level. And were we right!

The recipe itself is really quite simple. I used the basic vanilla cake recipe that I’ve provided on this website and  tweaked it just a tiny bit. Instead of vanilla essence, add about 1 to 2 teaspoons of grated orange rind. Follow all the steps till the very end. Then, just before pouring the cake into the cake pan/cupcake cases, stir in about a cup of chocolate chips. Bake as per usual. There, simple as ABC but a flavour so superior and addictive that you just won’t be able to stop once you start. Hmm..on second thoughts, I wonder if that’s such a good thing after all ;)

D-day minus One

Tomorrow will be Eid-al Adha, finally. The children have been waiting anxiously for the festivities to begin. Isn’t it interesting that as adults we divide ourselves according to our religion, our beliefs and yet children all over the world, despite their culture or religion celebrate in the very same way? I dare say even adults celebrate in a similar manner.For the most part of it, celebrations include prayers to thank God for his blessings, dressing up, cooking up a feast and dining with friends and family. We might differentiate ourselves, yet we find joy in very much the same things and at the end of the day, we all believe in the core goodness of humanity. Amen to that :)

Today, for the most part, I have stood diligently by the oven, baking and baking some more. For alas, while my hands may work fast, I possess just a tiny oven with a single rack. Bakers out there will understand that this means I have to wait and wait and wait if I wish to bake more than one batch of cupcakes/cookies/muffins/etc. And waited I have. However, the results were well worth it and the whole home is smelling festive already :)

The children could not help getting into the thick of the action and I did have a tiny pair of extra hands helping to lay out the trays with cupcake cases, mixing in the flour into the butter mixture, pouring in milk into the batter and finally trying out some of the goodies to make sure they were quite alright. Z, my teenage niece, too helped out and her help was very much appreciated. Zesting the oranges, sifting in the flour, mashing up the bananas, even helping with the photography, I see a fine baker there slowly blossoming.

Today’s baked goods include four types of cupcakes: Orange-Chocolate Chip Cupcakes, Banana-Yoghurt Cupcakes, Double Chocolate Cupcakes and finally Almond Cupcakes. The four different cupcakes were made using two different methods. The Orange-Choc Chip and Banana Cupcakes were made using the creaming method, while the Almond and Double Choc Cupcakes were made by mixing wet ingredients into the dry ones. I will explain each cupcake preparation method in the next few blogs, so keep on reading :) For now, I have a little princess who is demanding attention from her Mummy. After all, its Eid tomorrow and the princess has to choose her special outfit and accessorise it too. And those are very important work that have to be immediately attended to :)

Citrus Yoghurt Cake

I’ve been meaning to bake a citrus cake for some time now but somehow I’ve put it off till today. There’s a deepavali celebration at the princess’ Montessori this evening and we’ve already made arrangements to bring samosas and vadais to the function. However, I just cannot Not bring something sweet along too. I mean, whats a celebration without desserts, right? I admit I’m quite sure some of the other parents might be bringing some dessert or other but I just cannot resist the temptation to bake something. So given the opportunity to feed a whole load of kids, I decided on something that’s equal parts healthy and yummy: Citrus Yoghurt Cake. If you have been reading my posts, you might have realised that many of my cake recipes include yoghurt. I find that yoghurt, when added to just about any recipe, results in a flavour and creaminess that’s just irresistible. So there you go, I’ve just let you on in my little secret, and we will keep it just between us ;)

For ease of serving, I’ve baked up the cakes in loaf pans but ofcourse you are free to bake it in any type of pan that you have available. Start off by using your favourite butter cake recipe, or the vanilla cake recipe that I have provided. Omit the vanilla or any other essence asked for in your recipe and replace it with about 2 teaspoons of grated mixed lemon, orange and lime rinds. Follow the method of preparation as per recipe but add in about 3 tablespoons of yoghurt when adding in the milk/liquid.

Bake as per normal and enjoy the gloriously intoxicating aroma that is but a precursor to the tantalizingly rich yet fluffy, buttery yet tangy and moist cake that is to be yours to savour.

 

Gulab Jamuns (Fried Dough Balls Soaked in Sugar Syrup)

In just a few day’s time, the 6th of November to be exact, Muslims around the globe will be celebrating Eid al-Adha or ‘Festival of Sacrifice’. This festival commemorates the willingness of Abraham (Ibrahim, pbuh) to sacrifice his son Ishmael (Isma’il, pbuh) as an act of obedience to Allah (God), at which time the angel Gabriel (Jibrael, pbuh) appeared before him and told him this was but a test of his faith and was then given a ram to sacrifice instead. The Eid al-Adha is celebrated annually on the 10th day of the 12th (and last) Islamic month of Dhu al-Hijjah of the lunar Islamic calender. Celebrations start after the Hajj which is the annual pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia by Muslims.

In typical fashion, Muslims worldwide hold ‘open-houses’ on this day, welcoming family and friends to their home for a lavish meal, which includes many different varieties of savouries and sweets.

This morning I walked into the kitchen to find my Mom half-way through her preparation of Gulab Jamuns, a must-have in most North Indian homes during any celebration, especially Eid. As a side note, you will find this sweet dessert on the menu of just about any north Indian host, regardless of his/her religion, it’s that popular. I sat down with her and reminisced about my childhood days when I would insist on helping her with the shaping of the dough into small balls which were then fried in ghee (clarified butter), or oil for the health conscious, before finally being soaked in a simple syrup. Today, there was hardly any dough left for me to shape since my Mom was almost done with the shaping.

As she fried up the gulab jamuns, the familiar sweet smell brought back many memories of happy days, of days when I would pester my Mom to let me eat the fried balls even before they were soaked in the syrup. I will have you know that she makes some of the best Gulab Jamuns i know. We have tried them in the best restaurants in India (as well as Dubai and Singapore), many famous frozen and canned brands and many,many homes but to date, none have been able to stand up to the ones that she makes.

Well, I can’t wait for Sunday to get my hands on them. You see, I did not pester my Mom to give me some today. With age, I have realised that the best things in life are worth waiting for :)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chocolate-Chip Mini Loaves

A few weeks back I had bought these cute little mini loaf pans while out and about. Then it got stashed away in the corner of my room and I completely forgot all about it. (I’ve practically exhausted all available space and things are now getting dumped in corners, strategically covered by long, bulky curtains). Till last night, that is. When I got reacquainted with these delightful little pans, I knew that I just had to use them. I toyed with the idea of making a quick banana bread but since I had just made some banana muffins not too long ago, I decided against it. After considering a few more options, I finally decided on a yeast bread. What type and flavour of bread to make though? That was actually an easy decision. Of late, I’ve been addicted to the choc-chip bread available at Cedele. However, each time I have bought a little roll, I have subconsciously made a mental note to self : I should get down to baking some of my own. Well, there you go, perfect time to finally make a batch of these. The final result was quite amazing, the smell that permeated the whole house was heavenly and the taste, I’m sure you can guess. It really is not easy to go wrong with choc-chip anything and this was no exception.

All you have to do is use your basic sweet dinner roll or basic sweet bread recipe but increase the required amount of sugar asked for by a few tablespoons and towards the end of the kneading process, add a cup (or two, according to your taste) of chocolate chips. I added some roasted pecans in some of my loaves and they went together fabulously! Just before baking, I sprinkled a generous amount of coarse, white sugar on the top of the loaves to give it a sparkly look as well as a crunchy bite. These little loaves are perfect with a steaming mug of coffee.

Kiwifruit-Lemon Sorbet

Having baked a good many cupcakes and pies in the last week, I thought it would be a refreshing change to make some sorbet.

To be fair, it was Z who had suggested the idea of an ice cream, a sorbet to be exact, and after eliminating our original idea of a mango sorbet due to the small matter that there were no mangoes on hand, we decided on a kiwifruit sorbet. Thankfully I had some golden ones stashed away in the fridge, waiting to be sacrificed for a good cause, and what better cause than a a cool, refreshing, icy sorbet to chase away the heat.

It’s besides the point that the sunny weather that had initially triggered the need for a refreshing dessert quickly turned into a torrentially rainy one during the course of preparing it. Nonetheless, the cool weather did not affect our enjoyment :)

 

 

 

A sorbet is generally classified as an ice-cream that contains a large percentage of fruits/fruit juices and no dairy (i.e. milk or eggs). Hence, it’s not just delicious and refreshing, its also low-fat. Surely the perfect thing for those sweltering afternoons, or even as a palate cleanser in between meals. The kiwi fruits shine in this sorbet – The aroma and flavour of this delicious, Vitamin C-packed fruit really comes through and the lemon heightens the natural zestyness and tangyness of the fruit, making it the refreshing dessert of choice. To top it all, its super easy to make.

All you need to do is to dissolve about a cup of sugar in 1.5 cups of water and cool it in the fridge. Meanwhile, squeeze out the juice of about 3 lemons and add the grated rind of a lemon to this juice. Peel and purée gently about 6 to 8 golden or normal kiwi fruits in a food processer or a blender. Then, mix the sugar syrup, lemon juice and pureéd kiwis well. All that’s left to do now is to churn it well in an ice cream maker and then freeze it in the freezer for a couple of hours.

 If you do not own an ice-cream maker (I inherited one only very recently and up to now have been churning out my sorbets and ice creams the old fashioned way), do not fret. This sorbet can easily be made without the special gadgets. Once you have mixed up the sugar syrup and juices, pour the mixture into a container with a lid and freeze it for about an hour. Take it out and stir it to break up the icy mixture and then replace it in the freezer for a couple of hours. Your refreshing sorbet is ready to be enjoyed :)

 

 

Birthday Party and Chiffon Cakes

 This past month seems to have been jam packed with birthday parties. Either more kids are born during October, or more kids born during Oct are friends with my Princess or more kids born during Oct throw birthday parties. Whichever the case, the kids have been attending parties almost every week this month and I must admit they are well pleased. Today was one of the princess’ friend’s party at the Children’s Park at the Botanic Gardens. Lovely idea really, it was a nice environment for the kids to run around and splash around (there is a little water play area within) and the scrumptiously sweet smell of pandan and lemon grass permeated the air. Pandan certainly reminds me of light-as-air chiffon cakes. Which brings us to the dessert of the day: Chiffon Cakes. Chiffons are very much like Sponge Cakes, differing only with respect to the addition of oil/fat. While sponge cakes are 100% fat-free, Chiffons contain some amount of vegetable oil which give them an extremely soft as well as a relatively moist crumb. Since oil is liquid at room temperature, the result is a cake that is far superior in tenderness than any cake containing butter. These cakes remain tender even when refrigerated so they can be consumed straight out of the fridge, a plus factor when the frosting of choice is whipped cream as cream doesn’t hold well at warm room temperature. Both sponge and chiffon cakes fall under the ‘foam cakes’ category and they certainly make for excellent layer cakes, especially when there is very generous amounts of whipped cream separating the layers. So, next time you are baking a cake, try using chiffon as the base instead and taste the results! Plus, its easy on your waist-line ;)

Halloween Cupcakes

A picture speaks louder than words. So I thought today I should babble less and instead leave you with the photos of my afternoon’s work. These are Chocolate Chip and Vanilla Cupcakes and I have frosted them with Buttermilk flavoured Buttercream and decorated them with an assortment of candies, marshmallows and raisins to befit the occasion they’ve been prepared for : A Halloween Party for little kids at school. Enjoy :)