Chocolate Cupcakes with Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

cupcakeSaturday was Jan’s birthday, and on Sunday I felt like baking… perfect timing for Jan to be able to take something in for his colleagues today. I didn’t want to make a full on cake, so I decided on chocolate cupcakes using a recipe that I’ve had for ages and is really easy to follow. I found the original recipe on BBC Food years ago, but I can’t provide you with a link because it doesn’t seem to be on there any more. Buuut I’ve adapted the recipe to suit my own purposes over the years, which means it’s mine now and posting it here without a link won’t be breaking any copyright laws, right? Right? Here’s the recipe:

Ingredients

For the cupcakes:
220g butter
220 g caster sugar
220g self-raising flour OR 220g plain flour plus 1.5 teaspoons baking powder (plus half a tsp of bicarbonate of soda, if you have it)
4 eggs, beaten (mine were medium, but I’ve used large before)
15g cocoa powder
30g chocolate chips
A few drops of vanilla extract

For the frosting:
125g soft butter
210g icing sugar, sifted (the sifting is important or the frosting will have lumps of icing sugar in)
125g plain chocolate
1 tsp cocoa powder

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C.  Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

2. Add the cocoa powder and blend it into the other ingredients, then stir in the chocolate chips and vanilla extract.

3. Add the eggs and stir well (don’t worry if it looks a bit lumpy at this stage).

4. Gradually fold in the flour until you’re left with a thick paste that looks a bit like chocolate mousse.

5. Place heaped teaspoons of the mixture into cupcake cases in a bun tray and bake for around 15 minutes until risen and bouncy when touched. The mixture makes around 24-26 cupcakes, depending on how much of the mixture you eat before it makes it to the oven (what? I know I’m not the only one that does that…). Once the cupcakes are baked, leave then to cool while you make your frosting.

Fresh out of the oven (if they look flat in this picture, it's the camera angle. I swear they had actually risen!)
Fresh out of the oven (if they look flat in this picture, it’s the camera angle. I swear they had actually risen!)

6. Melt the plain chocolate in a bowl over a pan of water (or in the microwave if you have such a thing…)

7. While the chocolate is melting, cream together the butter and icing sugar.

8. Add the melted chocolate the sugar and butter and stir everything together well.

9. Add a teaspoon of cocoa powder and stir until all the powder is properly blended in.

10. Place a teaspoon of the frosting on each cupcake and spread it with a knife (or pipe it on if you want your icing to end up looking better than mine… I preferred the less washing up option!).

Chocolate cupcakes and chocolate frosting
Chocolate cupcakes and chocolate frosting

11. You can either leave the cupcakes as they are now or decorate them as you see fit. Apparantly, I saw fit to sprinkle stars on mine in an incredibly haphazard manner. I could claim it’s supposed to be artistic but we all know it was sheer laziness…

Seeing stars...
Seeing stars…

12. Leave the frosting to cool/set for a bit then enjoy your cupcakes!

Roasted Butternut Squash and Goat’s Cheese Risotto

I would like to share with you what the boyfriend and I ate for tea tonight because it tasted absolutely amazing even if I do say so myself 😉 Plus, the recipe was made up entirely by yours truly with no input from my usual recipe websites.

Here’s what you’ll need (serves 2):
1 butternut squash, peeled and chopped
2 cloves of garlic, crushed or finely chopped
Olive oil
1 red onion, chopped
Risotto rice, however much your packet says makes 2 portions
Vegetable or chicken stock
100g soft goat’s cheese
Freshly ground black pepper
Herbs/spices to taste
White wine, about half a glass (optional)

And the method:

1. Preheat the oven to 200°C (you should do this before chopping your squash really), then put about 2 tablespoons of olive oil into a large bowl (I never claimed this recipe was low calorie!) and add one clove or garlic, then stir in the butternut squash until it is all coated in garlic/olive oil mix. If there isn’t enough olive oil, add a bit more. Then add freshly ground black pepper and some other herbs/spices to taste. I used a bit of cayenne pepper and some dried mixed herbs (called “italische Kräuter” in Germany)

2. Place the butternut squash in an oven-proof dish and place it in the oven. You’re going to want to roast it for between 30 and 45 minutes, taking it out half way through to give it  a stir and check on the spices (I ended up adding salt plus more black pepper at the halfway point).

Some bits of squash are slighty green because it wasn't 100% ripe yet. It still tasted good though!
Some bits of squash are slighty green because it wasn’t 100% ripe yet. It still tasted good though!

3. Place some butter in a large saucepan and melt it then use it to fry the second garlic clove and the red onion. Once the vegetables are almost done, add your risotto rice and continue frying until the rice is glassy looking.

4. Make up the amount of stock your rice’s instructions tell you to (I used chicken stock because I had run out of vegetable, but vegetable would also be good) then pour the stock into the saucepan, stir and allow to simmer.

5. When the rice has soaked up almost all the liquid, add the goat’s cheese to the saucepan and stir it in. You should end up with a lovely creamy looking mixture.

6. By this time, your squash should be ready. Remove it from the oven, check the spices again then, when all is good, stir it into the saucepan with the other ingredients.

The squash all roasted
The squash all roasted

7. Once the squash is stirred in, add some white wine to the saucepan. I used roughly half a glass. Stir everything together and simmer until the white wine has mostly been absorbed and you’re left with a colourful mixture with a creamy consistency.

8. Enjoy your meal!

The finished article
The finished article

p.s. Looking at this post and any of my previous recipe and baking posts will probably tell you exactly why I’m not a food blogger!

Caaaake

Yesterday, we were invited to the post-wedding celebration barbecue of one of Jan’s colleagues (the couple actually got married almost a year ago). I was told I could bake a cake if I liked, so I decided to find something new, but fairly easy to make.

I chose this from BBC Good Food: Blueberry Soured Cream Cake with Cheesecake Frosting

The batter was fairly easy to make. Place most of the ingredients in a bowl and stir until combind. Add the eggs and ssour cream and stir more then stir in half the blueberries, saving the other half to decorate.

After baking, the cake looked like this:

Blueberry cakeIt sunk a little in the middle (should have baked it for longer!) but not too badly.

Here it is the next morning, after removal of the baking paper:

Blueberry cake 2It had sunk even more and also now had a ring around it where I turned it upside down on a plate to remove the paper. Ooops! Good job there was still icing and decoration to come…

Blueberry cake icedAaah, much better! Here’s a view from the top:

Iced cake top view

I also made brownies as a back up – I know my brownies recipe always works! I even experimented this time, mixing the plain chocolate with a little orange chocolate and adding the juice of one orange. The verdict: Delicious, but I could have added slightly more orange. Jan’s colleagues have begged me to send in brownies to work with him soon , so I’ll count that as a success!

The blueberry cake tasted good – not too sweet, and it was cooked through despite the sinking in the middle issue. It didn’t disappear as quickly as the brownies, but with two entire tables of cakes to choose from that’s not really surprising! And by the end of the party, it, too, had been demolished. Success all round! Now to decide what my next brownies experiment will be. The addition of some ginger, perhaps?…

Rosemary and lemon roast chicken

Chickens
Non-roasted chickens (Photo: Allie’s.Dad on Flickr)

Last week, I stumbled across this blog post with a recipe for a delicious sounding roast chicken. I’d been thinking about roasting a chicken for a while, and I knew instantly that this had to be the one I tried. The only problem was all the measurements are in American, i.e. cups and sticks and things. Seriously Americans, what’s wrong with good old grams? I knew that couldn’t be the only roast chicken recipe out there to use rosemary and lemons though, so I turned to the Interwebs for help. A quick google came up with this BBC Good Food recipe that sounded quite similar, so I settled on making my own version based on a combination of those two recipes. Here’s what I did (there are no photos of the individual steps because I wasn’t planning on blogging about it. This post is borne of a sheer lack of anything else to blog about – even my search terms have been boring recently!):

Ingredients
One whole chicken
150 g of butter
2 garlic cloves, crushed
Half of a red chilli, deseeded and chopped finely
15 g of fresh rosemary, finely chopped (the BBC recipe wanted 20 g. Well, sorry BBC but fresh herbs in Germany only come as either whole plants or in 15 g packs!)
Freshly ground black pepper

Method

This image shows a whole and a cut lemon.
Lemons (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
  1. Leave the butter out for a bit to soften then place it in a bowl. Add the zest of one lemon to the bowl (or both if you like. I accidently chopped one lemon in half before remembering this was supposed to be the zesting stage and I didn’t fancy grating zest off a lemon that was in half. Too messy!)
  2. Crush 2 garlic cloves into the butter and add the chopped chilli and chopped rosemary. Comine the butter and other ingredients together.
  3. Rub about half of the buttery-herby-lemony mix all over the chicken (yes, with your hands! And I do have to admit I felt a bit sick looking at all that butter on my chicken! Jan, on the other hand, came in, looked at it and said “Mmm, that looks good!” In case you ever doubted that men and women are different, there’s your proof. ;-)) then squeeze all the juice from one lemon over it (I used the one I hadn’t previously zested). Then grind black pepper all over the top of the chicken.
  4. Cut the other lemon in half and stick the 2 halves inside the cavity of the chicken (the blog recipe told me to put all 4 halves up there but my chicken was only big enough for 2!)
  5. Cover the chicken with foil and put it in the oven for half an hour on 190°C. Then remove it, get rid of some of the fat/butter mix from the bottom of the roasting pan then put the rest of the butter mixture over the chicken (this time I used a spoon – too hot for hands!)
  6. Cover the chicken again and put it back in the oven for about 20 minutes, then uncover it and put it back in for around 20 minutes to brown, turning the oven down to about 170°C for these 20 minutes.
  7. Once the juices are running clear and the chicken is brown on top, take it out of the oven and let it stand for 10 minutes then serve with the side dishes of your choice. We had roast potatoes, mashed potatoes and vegetables.

Here’s my chicken:

Chicken!
Chicken!

It went back in the oven after I took this to brown up some more. It never did get properly brown, but the juices were running clear so I figured it would be ok. And neither of us has been ill this week, so I obviously got lucky 😉

A Sunday dinner for two
A Sunday dinner for two

Sooooup!

I bought myself a hand blender just after we came back from our New Year’s trip and I was dying to try it out, so yesterday I decided to make this Creamy curried carrot and butter bean soup from the BBC Good Food website.

I made a list of the ingredients I didn’t already have at home and headed to the shops directly from work. Once home, I logged on to the computer to print out the recipe only to find… no Internet! (I’ve since found it was a larger problem that affected 150,000 customers).  I was already planning to improvise as the place I went shopping didn’t sell butter beans so I bought a tin of something calling itself “white beans” instead (they looked like haricot beans to me). I still wanted my soup – and of course to use my new blender – so I decided to make my own version, based very loosely on what I could remember of the recipe. And so I bring you my own personal Curried Carrot and Bean Soup.

Curried carrot and bean soup
Curried carrot and bean soup, by me

For this recipe, you will need:
1 small onion, chopped
1 large or 2 small cloves of garlic, chopped or crushed
Some dried chilli flakes or a fresh chilli chopped small
400g of carrots, half of them sliced, the other half grated
1 large or a few small potatoes, diced
400g tin of white beans (haricot or cannellini)
About 200 ml vegetable stock
Curry powder
Ground turmeric
Ground cumin
200 ml tub of cream
(This amount served 2 of us as a main meal with plenty of bread. As a starter, it will probably do for 4-6 people)

Method
1. Fry the onions and garlic in some oil (I used olive oil) for about a minute
2. Add the chilli flakes (or fresh chilli if you have one – I didn’t) and fry for about another minute or 2
3. Add around 1-1.5 teaspoons each of curry powder, turmeric and cumin, depending on how spicy you like it, and stir well until everything’s mixed together

Onions, garlic and spices
Onions, garlic and spices

4. If the spices have soaked up all the oil, put a little more in the pan then add the chopped carrots and potato and fry for about 2-3 minutes, stirring once in a while
6. Add half of the tin of beans, stir in and fry for another minute or so

Vegetables
Vegetables

5. Boil the kettle and before making the vegetable stock pour a little boiling water onto any onion/spice mixture that’s stuck to the bottom of the pan. The stuck on stuff will come off and you can stir it in. Now make up around 200 ml of vegetable stock and leave everything to simmer for about 5-7 minutes until the vegetables have softened and most of the water has gone (I grated the remaining carrots while I was waiting)
6. Blend the vegetable and stock mixture to form a puree then return the pan to the heat (if you used a real blender, obviously return the mush to the pan first) and add just enough water to make it slightly runny again, although not completely liquid (about 30ml should do it)
7. Stir the grated carrots and the rest of the beans into the mixture then gradually add the cream until it reaches the consitency you want. I used all my cream, but you might not want to

Gradually add the cream...
Gradually add the cream…

8. Season to taste with freshly ground black pepper (and salt, if you like. I didn’t bother as I thought vegetable stock would be salty enough). At this point, you might want to add more of the spices (turmeric, cumin, curry powder) if the cream has taken away too much of the heat. Add some chilli powder too, if you like.
9. Heat the soup through completely, stirring frequently then serve with buttered crusty bread (or if, like me, you forgot to buy decent crusty bread, with toast…)

Ready to serve
Ready to serve

This ended up being a really tasty meal. I liked the way the grated carrots and non-pureed beans gave it some texture while the blended ingredients and the stock/cream gave it a soupy consistency in the background. Also, I was rather proud of myself for inventing my own soup recipe (albeit loosely based on someone else’s – looking at the Good Food recipe, it seems I didn’t actually remember much though…).