Category Archives: Muffins and Cupcakes

Chocolate Cupcakes with Sour Cream Icing

It seems I am without words today. I have opened this post up at least a dozen times and sat, waiting for the screen to fill. It hasn’t and I’ve closed it down again that same dozen times. Until now, when it just seems inevitable to let the pictures do the talking. I think it’s because I was typing field-notes today, into nice, space related sections and that used up all my words. I’ve been trying to make sense of the last six weeks of field work and the best way to do that, I think, is to examine what has been happening in the different spaces. That way I can see themes coming through. The good news is that there are themes. I’m not one hundred percent sure on them yet – given that I have months of observation ahead of me, that is not altogether surprising – but there are certain things which have caught my eye. At the moment I’m simply writing them into spaces – the dining hall, the classroom, the farm – and letting the ideas I have sit, in the back of my mind, mellowing, like pink pigs in mud.

These cupcakes went on an adventure to Dovedale this weekend as part of a friend’s birthday outing. So that’s where the landscape pictures are taken. I made the cupcakes on Friday night, quite late and I only remembered to take photos when the mixture was all made. So that’s why the method photographs are a bit scant.

Chocolate Cupcakes
Makes 12
Adapted from Tea with Bea
60g cocoa powder (I used Green and Blacks)
1/2 cup boiling water
1/4 cup milk
1/2 tsp vanilla
65g butter, unsalted, softened
140g dark brown sugar
85g golden granulated sugar
1/4 cup sunflower oil
2 eggs
140g plain flour
3/4tsp bicarbonate of soda

Preheat the oven to 170C and line a muffin tray with cupcake cases. Put the cocoa powder into a bowl and whisk in the boiling water until the mixture is smooth. Whisk in the milk and vanilla and set aside.
Beat the butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Slowly add in the oil and mix until combined. Then add in the eggs, beating well. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
Mix together the flour and bicarb. Add the flour in three additions, alternating with the cocoa mixture. I beat the first two additions of flour in with an electric mixer but then folded in the final addition.

Divide the mixture between the cases.

Bake for about 15 minutes. The cupcakes will be risen and will spring back to the touch when done. Cool in the tin for 10 minutes before turning out onto a rack.

For the sour cream icing I used a recipe from Annie Bell’s Baking Bible. It only has two ingredients so I didn’t do any adapting. I’ve made it before and I like it because it is so dark and bitter, it contrasts with the sweeter cake. The amount in the book makes enough to ice 12 cupcakes generously.

Apple and Blackberry Muffins

So! I am back online everyone! A further call to IT this morning has seen me sorted out, finally, after a rather frustrating week. I’ve been dashing to the library and my office in between all the other things I’ve been doing when I’ve needed to open attachments to emails. There’s nothing quite like trying to understand an excel document on a Blackberry.

I figured I’d start out with the post I had planned for Sunday. Sometimes over the weekend I like to spend a little more time making breakfast. Usually it’s coffee and oats for me but some Sundays I get up and want bacon and eggs or, as was the case this Sunday, a lovely straight-from-the-oven carbohydrate. These are from a Marie Claire cookbook called Cuisine which I found in a bookstore last week. It’s basically a collection of all the best recipes of the Marie Claire series. I got rather excited about it because I happen to love the Marie Claire books (I have a rather ridiculous number of them and they were amongst the first recipe books I started to buy) but mine are all in Joburg. Their recipes tend to be easy and quick and are great inspiration when you’re stuck for dinner. They also generally have wicked breakfast recipes.

These particular muffins are made with oil so it doesn’t matter if you don’t have butter at room temperature (the curse of trying to do something quickly I find) and you only need two bowls. Okay, maybe three. The original recipe called for blueberries but I had a punnet of blackberries that needed using so I changed that. I also used more wholewheat flour as I’d run out of plain flour. You can either do all plain or half and half as I’ve written here.  As usual I used golden caster sugar.

Apple and Blackberry Muffins
Adapted from Marie Claire Cuisine
2 eggs
2 tbsp honey
1 tbsp golden caster sugar
3 tbsp sunflower oil
1 green apple, 1/2 grated, 1/2 sliced
3/4 cup milk
150g blackberries
125g plain flour
125g wholemeal flour
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp baking powder

Preheat the oven to 180C and line a muffin tray with cases.
In a bowl whisk together the eggs, honey, sugar and oil until combined. Add in the grated apple and milk.

 In a separate bowl, crush the blackberries lightly with the back of a fork, just so they’re slightly broken up and not in large pieces.

 Add the blackberries to the egg mixture and give everything a good stir.

 In a separate bowl, mix together the dry ingredients. Fold half the dry mixture into the egg mixture and combine. Then fold in the rest of the dry ingredients.

Spoon into muffin cases. Top with apple slices and a sprinkle of golden caster sugar.

Bake for 30 minutes, until the tops are golden and a skewer comes out clean. Allow to cool slightly in the tin before turning out onto a wire rack. The original recipe says it makes 6 but mine made 12 so I did half without apple on top. These muffins don’t really keep as the apple baked on top goes soggy so you need to eat them the day they’re baked, preferably whilst they’re still warm.

Carrot Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

I think today is that day to tell you all about my new academic year, which has technically begun this week. Official university doesn’t start until October but my work is based in schools so I’m getting to go in early. (I am slightly jealous of other people who are still technically on vacation – and I mean technically because as PhD’s we don’t get the official holidays or anything.) My data collection has now officially started and even though this is a sort of admin week and I won’t be back in school until Monday, I’m treating it as an official week.

My new data collection schedule is structured so that I have a ‘breather day’ (also known as the day of great sleep ins, pub day, two for one movie day and so forth) when I can collect my thoughts from one site and get prepared for another. The idea is that it will allow me to collate things that are happening in one place, read, make notes, read, focus on preliminary data analysis and read. I am also going to think of it as baking day. If I don’t get a chance the rest of the week, Wednesday is my new baking day. It’ll give me something to look forward to when things are getting out of hand.

To celebrate this momentous occasion and to start the Wednesday baking club, I have made you carrot cupcakes with cream cheese frosting. I know, I know, I shouldn’t have. But I did. You can blame the blog over at Smitten Kitchen for making something called maple syrup cream cheese frosting. I read that and was like way-hay. I need to make that. We all know how much I love cream cheese frosting. I’m always up for a cake that is basically a vehicle for the stuff.

These cupcakes are quick and easy. They feel quite autumnal which is rather appropriate now that the weather is changing and it’s noticeably cooler. I scaled the recipe down by half (the original makes 24) and adapted the measurements (which are American). I added slightly more nutmeg than the original, mainly because I use fresh nutmeg and guesstimate the right amount. I also used two medium sized carrots grated directly into the mixture rather than trying to measure out a cup and a half. Feel free to measure it all out if you like.  I also used sunflower oil rather than canola and golden caster sugar rather than granulated white sugar.

Carrot Cupcakes
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
1 cup plain flour
1 tsp bicarb
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 cup golden caster sugar
1/2 plus 2 tbsp sunflower oil
2 eggs
2 medium carrots, grated
1/2 cup walnuts, roughly chopped 

Preheat the oven to 180C and line a 12 hole muffin tray with cupcake liners. (My oven is small so I did two bakings in a 6 hole tray).
Mix together the flour, bicarb, salt and spices and set aside.

In a separate bowl, whisk the sugar and oil until combined. Add the eggs, one at a time.

Add half the flour mixture to the egg mixture and stir to combine. Then fold in the rest of the flour.

Stir in the grated carrots followed by the walnuts.

This mixture is quite runny so if you’re feeling clean and neat I would put it into a piping bag and pipe it into the tin. If, like me, you didn’t think of that when you made them, spoon the mixture into the tin, filling the cups about 3/4 full. Try not to over fill them because they tend to flow over the edges of the muffin hole and you end up with cupcakes that are top heavy.
Bake for about 14 minutes – a skewer inserted will come out clean but they’ll seem quite spongy if you touch them looking for a spring back.

Allow to cool fully before icing.

Cream Cheese Frosting
230g cream cheese
60g butter
1 cup icing sugar
2 tbsp maple syrup
Place all the ingredients into a mixing bowl and beat until smooth and creamy. Use liberal amounts to ice the cupcakes.

Lemon Muffins

Sometimes it’s like a life-handing-you-lemons series of days. Well, I’m no dab hand at lemonade so the only thing to do is to make these. Plus they’re carbohydrates which makes everyone feel better. And they look like a little ray of summer sunshine which helps too. They’re good to eat pretty much at any time but I like them with tea in the afternoon. Feel free to adapt the recipe as you wish. You can add in 200g of fresh raspberries and 1/4cup of poppyseeds if you’re feeling that way inclined. You could also substitute the lemon rind for lime rind. I suspect they’re good with white chocolate chips too, about 1/2 cup’s worth. They can be iced and masqueraded as cupcakes but sometimes I like them just as they are…

Lemon Muffins
Adapted from Tom Aikens Cooking

115g butter, unsalted, soft
230g caster sugar
splash of vanilla
rind of one lemon
5 egg yolks
250ml sour cream
315g cake flour
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3 egg whites
pinch of cream of tartar

Preheat the oven to 180C. Line 2 muffin tins with cupcake holders or grease if not using any holders.
Cream the butter, sugar, vanilla and rind until white and fluffy. Add in the yolks. Then add in the flour (and bicarb and baking powder) in 3 batches, alternating with the sour cream. In a separate bowl whisk the egg whites with the cream of tartar until stiff. Beat this into the mixture, still using a beater attachment. (The mixture is very stiff and I struggled to fold the whites in by hand as I would normally do.)

Separate the mixture into the muffin tins and bake for 15 – 20 minutes until the muffins are risen and golden.

Allow to cool in the tins before transferring to a wire rack.

Lemon Poppyseed Cupcakes

These cupcakes are actually muffins in disguise. They work super well un-iced for breakfast. I like to keep a collection in my freezer to reheat at a moment’s notice.

Lemon Poppyseed Cupcakes

1/4c poppy seeds
1/2c milk
250g butter, unsalted and soft
275g caster sugar
grated zest of 2 small lemons
4 eggs
335g self-raising flour
100g plain flour
1c buttermilk

250g butter, unsalted, soft
2c icing sugar
juice of 2 small lemons

Preheat the oven. Grease and line 2 cupcake trays (this makes 24). Put the poppyseeds in a bowl and stir in the milk.
In a standing mixer, cream the butter, sugar and zest until white and fluffy. Add in the eggs, beating well. Add in the flours, buttermilk and poppyseed mix in 2 goes, alternating each.
Beat for a minute so the mixture is super smooth.

Divide the mixture between the cupcake tins. Bake for approximately 20 minutes, until the cupcakes spring back when touched and a skewer inserted comes out clean.

For the icing, mix the lemon juice with the icing sugar. Whisk until smooth. If you like, you can dip the cupcakes in this mixture and make do. (Illustrated in the photo below.) However, if you’re a fan of buttercream, cream the butter in the standing mixture until white. Add in the icing sugar/lemon mixture and mix until white and evenly distributed. You can also leave the cupcakes plain, for breakfast snacks.

Spice Cupcakes

The princess spent some time working in the USA a few years ago and discovered something called spice cake. She’s been obsessed ever since. I can’t say I mind this development at all. Spice cake is awesome. It makes the house smell like Christmas. And who better to provide a recipe than the queen of all things American, Martha Stewart. No matter what you think about this women, you have to agree that she is a genius. She’s made a multi-million dollar empire out of crafts and cake. There are no words.

The cream cheese icing is my addition, to soften the craving that took place a few days ago. Feel free to make a citrus glaze instead.

Spice Cupcakes
Adapted from Martha Stewart’s Cupcakes
80g butter
1 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
4 eggs
4 cups cake flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
pinch of salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon mixed spice
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
pinch of ground cloves
1 cup milk
1/2 cup buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 180C and line 2 cupcake trays. This recipe makes 24.
Cream the butter and sugar until fluffy then add in the eggs. Sift together all the dry ingredients. Add the dry ingredients in two batches, alternating with the milks. The mixture is fairly stiff.

Spoon into cupcake cases and bake for 18-20 minutes, until a skewer inserted comes out clean. Allow to cool in the tins before transferring to racks to cool completely.

Cream Cheese Icing
250g butter
250g icing sugar
900g cream cheese
splash of vanilla

Cream the butter and sugar together until white and fluffy. Add in the cream cheese and beat for about 5 minutes. Until the mixture is soft and spreadable and has turned white. Use to ice the cupcakes. Ices 24 cupcakes very generously. If you prefer less icing, make half to three quarters this amount.