Tag Archives: cupcake

Changes

Baby AnnouncementMy recent birthday was a remarkably warm Indian Summer afternoon and I sat in the square outside Spitalfields Market, eating Hummingbird Bakery cupcakes with my friend Jane.   It occurred to me at that moment that things would never be the same again.  And I’m not just talking about being able to resist the rather tantalising looking, yet e-number crammed rainbow cake I’d seen in the bakery earlier.

It all started with my visit to the 20-something substitute midwife a couple of weeks ago.  “You look fantastic for a pregnant lady in her 40’s” she said to me…on the day before my 36th birthday.

I had always been mistaken for being younger than I actually am.  Never older.  So it hit me hard.

Was this the beginning of how it happens?  Getting a Claire Balding haircut, buying a minivan, joining Pinterest?  (Oh God, I just joined Pinterest!)  Next thing you know, boom, you’ve got crows feet and find yourself in tears at the Creme de la Mer counter.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve felt great throughout most of this pregnancy.  A little sick at the beginning and perhaps these days, at week 22, I move at a…slightly slower pace.  I desperately am fighting pregnant lady waddle, but am not sure how much longer I will be able to fight that off as my whopper of a baby continues to grow.

I sit here in my living room as the builders upstairs listen (and occasionally sing along) to Latvian radio.  We are converting our second bathroom into a nursery.  A nursery!  I remember when we were house hunting.  We’d see nurseries and think “that would make a great second bathroom!”  I’m excited about this nursery and its future occupant.

But I really do miss having a second bathroom.

Bad Wife Cupcakes

The funny thing about marriage is that whatever action one spouse decides to take, it has an impact on the life of the other.

For instance, if Mr Harris decides to spend all day Saturday holed up in the living room with a case of Corona and a bag of pretzels watching the last leg of the Six Nations, it kind of affects my plans to spend a romantic afternoon, hand in hand, perusing Borough Market day.  And if I decide to catch up with some girlfriends for dinner at the Covent Garden Hotel one evening after work, that means Mr Harris orders a takeaway Chinese and eats it on the sofa in front of the TV while feeding prawn crackers to the dog has had his day impacted by my actions.

So at 4 o’clock on a Sunday afternoon when my husband excitedly pointed out to me the recipe for Skinny Red Velvet Cupcakes he had found on a foodie blog, I was…well, slightly taken aback by the sudden interest in cupcakes, but happy to go with his plan to stop by Sainsbury’s to buy the ingredients.  Mr Harris – on the rare occasions he does visit the kitchen – never bakes or cooks using what’s in the cupboard.  Any recipe requires a major shopping trip and an entire restock of our pantry WHETHER IT NEEDS IT OR NOT.  At quarter to five when we arrived home, the sudden passion for making cupcakes had somewhat disappeared and the lure of watching a week’s worth of CSI episodes on Sky Plus had become a far more attractive alternative.  It was at this point that I found myself in a kitchen full of mixing bowls and muffins tins, elbow deep in pink batter.

So, I made the cupcakes.  And they turned out fine.

It was at this point that Mr H wandered into the kitchen and interest in the recipe suddenly reignited.  He decided to take over the real man’s work – frosting.  He insisted that I leave ‘his’ kitchen while he prepared the cream cheese frosting.  I felt distinctly nervous about the whole thing for several reasons.  Mainly because Mr H didn’t have much experience eating cream cheese frosting, let alone making it.  The whole thing smelled of disaster.  With a self satisfied look on his face, he proudly produced a bowl of thin, gloopy…not frosting…possibly icing?  It tasted of cream cheese and wasn’t really all that sweet.  Worried he’d predict my lack of faith and duplicitous nature, I waited until he’d gone back to the living room before quickly grabbing what was left of the icing sugar, dumping it in the bowl and rapidly transforming the sweet soup into a slightly thin, but acceptable form of frosting.

I joined my husband in the living room several minutes later.  “See?” he said, with a self-satisfied look on his face.  “I told you it would be fine and YOU didn’t think I could do it.”  I apologised and told him I was wrong.  I told him his frosting was excellent.  And quickly returned to the kitchen to finish decorating the cupcakes before he suspected the truth – that I am a bad wife.

So, I return to my original point.  The funny thing about marriage is that whatever action one spouse decides to take, it has an impact on the life of the other.

Oh, and by the way, by the time I was finished with these cupcakes, they weren’t ‘skinny’ anymore.  Here’s the recipe.  With good cream cheese frosting.

Bad Wife Red Velvet Cupcakes

2 1/2 cups cake flour

1 cup moscovado sugar

1 tbsp unsweetened dutch-process cocoa

1 tsp salt

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp white vinegar

1/2 cup unsweetened apple sauce or mango puree

1/4 cup butter, softened

1 egg

2 egg whites

2 tsp vanilla

1 1/3 cup light buttermilk

1 tbsp red food colouring

1.  Preheat oven to 350. Line cupcake tins with liners.

2.  In a large mixing bowl, stir together flours, salt, cocoa, and baking powder.

3.  In another large bowl beat sugar, applesauce and butter. Beat in eggs and vanilla.

4.  In a separate bowl mix baking soda and vinegar. Add half of the dry ingredients into the egg mixture, mix well. Add buttermilk, red food colouring and mix well. Add the remaining dry ingredients and fold in vinegar and baking soda.

5.  Pour in prepared cupcake liners 3/4 of the way.

6.  Bake 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool, then frost with low fat cream cheese frosting.

Good Cream Cheese Frosting

300g Icing Sugar, sifted

50g Unsalted Butter, at room temperature

125g low fat Cream Cheese, cold

1.  Beat the icing sugar and butter together in a freestanding electric mixer with a paddle attachment (or use a handheld electric whisk) on medium-slow speed until the mixture comes together and is well mixed.

2.  Add the cream cheese in one go and beat until it is completely incorporated. Turn the mixer up to medium-high speed.

3.  Continue beating until the frosting is light and fluffy, at least 5 minutes. Do not overbeat, as it can quickly become runny.

Red Velvet Cake

Hummingbird Bakery Red Velvet Cupcake

Hummingbird Bakery Red Velvet Cupcake

In the last week I have made the jump from being 32 to 33.  I’m not certain, but I think that may have taken me from being in my early thirties to my mid thirties.  If I am still exempt from mid thirties, my boyfriend, who today turns 34, certainly isn’t.  But we don’t mind.  Its a week full of birthdays and that means one thing – a visit to the Hummingbird Bakery and an opportunity to eat Red Velvet Cake.  Twice.

Each year on my birthday we go to The Dorchester for a champagne afternoon tea.  Its a delightful tradition.  We always seem to have the same wonderful waiter (Edward, I think, is his name) who at some point brings me out a rich chocolate cake with birthday candles while the pianist plays Happy Birthday to me.  The Lapsang Souchong and cucumber sandwiches are all wonderful, as is the glass of Laurent Perrier at the start of the tea, but the terrible truth of the matter is that I might be just as happy if they plopped down an 8-inch Red Velvet Cake in front of me and handed me a bib & a spork.  I know – I’m a cretin!

Despite my tendencies of spending every spare moment in my kitchen, trying every idea that pops into my head, I have never baked a red velvet cake.  One reason is that I have a distinct fear that if I did, I would very possibly eat the whole cake in one sitting.  The second reason, is that, why bother when Hummingbird Bakery does such a smash up job of making them?  There are many bakeries in London trying to be all American and cupcakey, but none of them do a particularly good red velvet cupcake other than Hummingbird.  And they don’t stop at cupcakes – they make the real deal – the whole cake.  When I turned 30 I ordered one of their 10″ red velvet cakes to take to the birthday dinner party my friend was throwing for me at her home in Highgate.  I’m not certain what my English friends thought of this American atrocity, seemingly composed of sugar, fat and e-numbers, but when I ended up having 2/3 of the cake to take home with me at the end of the evening, I wasn’t disappointed at all in their lack of interest, and I spent the next 2 days eating nothing but slices of cake with cups of coffee.  I’m sure that weekend will have to answer for any future osteoporosis I might develop.

Those who avoid eating wheat & gluten (but also have a deep pocket book I might add) will be pleased to know that Hummingbird do their red velvet cake and cupcakes, as well as their vanilla and chocolate cakes, in a gluten free version.  Expensive at £46 for an 8″ cake, but worth it, so you too can develop a taste for this cult status cake.

*Image obtained from http://www.goodtoknow.co.uk/recipes/475341/Red-velvet-cupcakes

Brighton & Hove Food & Drink Festival (1 Sept – 4 Oct 2011)

Saturday, 10 September at 11:55am

In typical fashion, I’ve accidentally found myself in Brighton during a food festival…and with no camera.

I have, however, brought my notepad and a pen, so I’ve perched myself in a sunny spot under a palm tree behind the royal pavilion and its here that I’m eating a blueberry muffin and drinking my very belated morning coffee.

So far today I’ve wandered the Lanes (lusting over all the lovely antique diamonds) and I’ve perused the offerings at the food festival (which I also lust over) on New Road and Regent Street, narrowly avoiding a rather dangerous encounter with a Cypriot food stall selling only four types of pastries; the savoury options being spinach & feta and halloumi & onion, and the sweet options being a sort of almond custard with cinnamon and an anari filled empanada-like pastry, drizzled with honey and sesame seeds.  (I love anari – it should be an incredibly dull cheese, but it makes everything you serve it with, feel special.)  All of them were very tempting and oddly enough, they were gluten free as well.  There are dozens of stands selling American style cupcakes, old fashioned English tea cakes, freshly spun cotton candy (the staff wear massive bright pink wigs), local cheeses (including some Sussex Charmer, which I’ve bought to take home) and there’s also a man selling organic, biodynamic English fruit wines.

By the way, as I write this, I’ve been eavesdropping on an elderly Australian family who have accidentally made their way to this quiet end of the garden and have been deciding whether or not to negotiate jumping the 6-ft high fence that separates the Royal Pavilion grounds from the art deco bus stop at Old Steine.  Thankfully they have reconsidered and have taken my recommendation of walking to the other side of the garden and taking the exit onto Church St.  I love how Australians behave like 25 year olds, even when they’re 65!

Many of my favourite pleasures of Brighton are food-based; Montezuma’s chocolates, the fudge cake at Chockywockydoodah, the mountain-sized summer salad and the eaton mess at Bill’s on North Road and fish & chips with a can of coke on the pier.  As I’m here on my own today, its unfortunate that I’ll  probably avoid indulging myself with a single one of these decadences, but I may wander my way back up to Regent Street to buy one of those beautiful Cypriot pastries.

Saturday, 10 September at 2:35pm

I’m sitting in Pavilion Gardens, at the front of the palace, rather than the back this time, nibbling on my spinach & feta pastry and listening to the electric sitar player.  At one point, I thought it would be terribly romantic if I fell in love with the sitar player and lived with him in a ramshackle flat in Brighton while he busked & gigged and I ran a yoga commune or taught at a Waldorf school or something, but this fantasy stopped the moment he stopped for a smoke break with his friend the Rastafarian (who you also sometimes see playing his steel drums in the Pavilion Gardens) and started whinging about the Council in the truly whiniest voice you’ve ever heard.  Love is a fickle thing, and my loyalties immediately returned to my lovely boyfriend…even if he does work in insurance.

Sunday, 11 September at 12:10pm

The Brighton & Hove Food & Drink Festival continues until 4 October and there are plenty of foodie events between now and then, although the Big Sussex Market, which I’ve been at, will finish on Sunday 11 September at 6pm.  Its a beautiful autumn day and all the major Brighton restaurants have food stalls, there are loads of local suppliers of food and drink, and there’s a whole pavilion for Mexican Independence Day.  So, eat & drink your way to Jubilee Square and then watch some Mexican dancing or wander into the Pavilion Gardens and listen to the brass band (or the electric sitar player!) whilst enjoying a glass of prosecco from the Hotel Du Vin stand.  Just hurry up and go…now!