Wednesday, February 16, 2011

little morsels for me

I made these two days before Valentine’s Day.  I’m writing about them two days after Valentine’s Day.  I am not even going to pretend these are Valentine cupcakes in case you should think me premature or even, heaven forbid, tardy.  No, these were little cupcakes for a Saturday.  The heart-shaped rose petals are a mere coincidence, falling obligingly off the bud for me.  I did not pretend these were made for my sweetheart.  He is not the adorer of chocolate and coffee.  No, these were made for me. 

Last minute baking thoughts usually mean I haven’t taken the eggs or butter out of the fridge to wallow on the bench until they’ve finally reached room temperature.  Morning tea becomes a loss known as mourning tea.  After which it becomes afternoon tea if I’ve not already gotten over the whole idea of baking altogether.  But these, let me tell you, are fuss-free and fast.

The recipe is adapted from Cupcake Heaven by Susannah Blake.  It’s part of the Cupcakes for Special Diets chapter but don’t let that put you off – these are chocolate and coffee little wonders.  No butter – doesn’t that sound good? 

Cupcakes are a dainty bite of a big cake – all that taste in a little morsel.  Just remember to stop at one…..

I used fresh coffee in place of the instant coffee – if you’ve read my last post, you’ll know why.  I made an espresso and let it cool.  I used rice bran oil instead of sunflower.  I added more icing sugar to the frosting, as I wanted it to look thick in the photograph.  I suggest you follow the recipe for the topping as my thicker version set really fast. 

I’ve found that the recipes that I have used in this book have made less than stated so you may have to adjust the quantity.  They last well too – maybe…..


115g plain flour
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
3 tbsp cocoa powder
115g caster sugar
3 tbsp rice bran oil (or similar)
2 tsp espresso coffee
1½ tsp white wine vinegar
(The idea of putting vinegar in the batter may seem strange but it works.) 


2 tbsp rice bran oil
1½ tbsp cocoa powder
2 tbsp espresso coffee
150g icing sugar, sifted
(I used more to make icing thicker)

 Preheat oven to 180°C (35O°F) Gas 4.  Line cupcake/muffin tin with paper cases.

Combine flour, bicarbonate of soda, cocoa powder and sugar and sift into a bowl.  Make a well in the centre.  Pour in 125ml water, the oil, coffee and vinegar and stir.

Spoon mixture into paper cases (about half to just over half-full should give you the required gently rounded cupcake) and bake for about 15 minutes until risen and a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.  Cool on a wire rack.
For the icing: Place the oil, cocoa powder and coffee in a heatproof bowl placed over a pan of just simmering water (don’t let bowl touch the water or let water get into the bowl) and stir.  Gradually pour in the icing sugar and stir for 2 minutes until thick and glossy.  Add about ½ tsp more water to thin slightly.  Stir for 1 minute and spoon over cupcakes.

Bill and Photoshop have been meddling.  So here's a cupcake for Dracula – all dark and dangerous with a blood-red heart.  Wickedly good!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

a cup of coffee

The thing I like about coffee is that I can drink it and not have the urge for something sweet with it (although I often do).  Give me a cup of tea and I am heading for the biscuit tin or “just one” square of dark chocolate.  I blame this fondness for things sweet on childhood when afternoon tea was often accompanied by treats brought home by Dad. 

The morning cup of coffee has an exhilaration about it which the cheering influence of the afternoon or evening cup of tea cannot be expected to reproduce.  ~ Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.

I was not an early devotee of coffee.  In my childhood home, I remember the aroma of Blue Mountain coffee emanating from the kitchen and wafting up the stairs.  Little brown paper bags of the beans were purchased and just the right amount went into the hand grinder clamped on the kitchen bench.  Milk was heated gently in a small aluminium saucepan.  The intense brown liquid was poured from a little enamel pot.  But back then it was a parent thing and I was not remotely interested in drinking the stuff.  Perhaps the intense aroma seeped into my skin, for years later here I am savouring the stuff and revisiting coffee memories. 

It’s not that I drink a lot – maybe only up to two or three cups in one day and I never have coffee at breakfast.  It’s just the anticipation for that moment when you can have one.  I fret if I have got to midday without one.  Coffee has an addictive pull which tea does not possess.  A cup of tea can be had anytime and it is neither here nor there, but coffee is an experience to savour.  It fills me with anticipation whether I am making one at home or having one in a café.  As long as it’s a good coffee, with that first sip I feel like I am enwrapped in contentedness. 

When we moved from the city to the country, I was distraught about being so far from coffee culture.  As I was “coerced” into living a rural life, my friend reckoned that my partner ‘owed me big time’.  A small, inexpensive coffee machine was purchased to compensate for lack of city life.  Over the years, this little machine has been used daily and still produces a pretty damn good cup of coffee.  Oh, and I still get my regular city fixes!

Coffee is a welcome break in a working day.  It’s a treat to come home to.  It’s a pleasure to share with friends.  It’s time out with a magazine in a city café.

Just don’t give me instant!