I have very early memories from my childhood singing a song about vegetables and how you’d never grow up to be big and strong if you didn’t eat them. I also don’t remember ever being refused dessert for not finishing my veggies – I must have been lucky. To this day I do like (most) vegetables but then again, I also like cake. So why not combine both?
We have all heard about the almighty and oh-so-good carrot cake with cream cheese frosting. But let’s face it – carrots are so sweet they barely classify as a vegetable in my books. Which is why I like to use other, less popular veg. I am yet to make a beetroot chocolate cake but I now have 2 great courgette recipes in my ‘Let-me-amaze-you’ arsenal. I have admittedly omitted to mention the presence of courgette a time or two before the cake has been tasted but again, luckily no one has spat cake in my face yet either. So all in all – my attempt to incorporate one of your 5 a day in dessert is working well so far.
So here a recipe I discovered and already tested on my office guinea pigs (who luckily for me never say no to cake).
Lemon courgette cupcakes
(makes 10 or 12 – see below)
175g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
115g caster sugar
150g courgette (peeled and coarsely grated)
2 free range eggs
60ml sunflower oil
1tsp lemon extract
For the frosting:
200g full fat Philadelphia cream cheese (cold – straight from the fridge)
3 heaping tsps of icing sugar (approximately – add more or less according to taste)
zest of 1 lemon
1/2tsp vanilla extract
Line a muffin tin with either 12 fairy cake cases or 10 muffin ones. I prefer using muffin cases in this case as the frosting is a little runnier than buttercream so it sits nicely in the cases without spilling over. Sift the dry ingredients in a medium sized bowl. Mix the wet ingredients in a small bowl (oil, eggs and lemon extract). Add the courgettes and the wet ingredients to the dry ones and whisk well till all incorporated. Bake at 160 degrees Celsius (fan) or 180 degrees for non-fan ovens for around 23 mins or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let to cool on a rack completely.
In the meantime prepare the frosting. Mix the cream cheese frosting, vanilla, sugar and lemon zest using a wooden spoon – don’t overmix so it doesn’t go too runny but make sure it’s nice and smooth. I recommend to then pop it back in the fridge for a while (at least until the cupcakes are completely cool) so it can firm up.
Once the cupcakes are completely cool, spoon frosting on top and smooth out a little. I did like those looking a little bit rough around the edges to add to them even more home-made flair. If you have time or patience, you can even shave longer pieces of lemon zest to decorate. I was lazy 😉 Then serve with a cup of tea and coffee and enjoy!
This winter has been very very long albeit not very cold. But I am ready for the sun and the beach. And I can finally see the end of it – so as we welcome Spring, I feel like this is the last chance to share a winter cake still. Even though we live in a warm climate with plenty of sunshine and beaches, my other half still enjoys winter sports and we are lucky to have a ski resort not too far away from Gibraltar. So when he said he wanted to go skiing for his birthday in January, it was obvious what cake I should make for him. Living together did prove to be a challenge for a surprise cake but where there is will, there is a way – special thanks to my friend Tracy for allowing me to invade her kitchen so I can bake the cake in secret still! So the unsuspecting birthday boy got not only the iPhone 6 he’d been dreaming of for a while, but a ski chocolate cake with cream cheese frosting too! I was lucky he saw the humor in it and wasn’t at all offended by being pictured as just feet sticking out of a pile of snow*!
*When we went to Germany for Christmas, I brought back almost half a suitcase of cake decorating stuff – sprinkles, cookie cutters etc, but my best buy by far was a set of edible felt tip pens (8 different colors too). How did I live without them before? I definitely recommend them to everyone – they’re great for writing on fondant or dry royal icing.
Ever since I took that cupcake decorating course I wrote about a few weeks ago, one thought does not give me peace.Luckily I haven’t lost much sleep over it but it has kept me occupied during many times. And here it is…
Should you sacrifice flavor for looks and vice versa?
Let me explain: I personally do not like the taste of buttercream – I find it too sweet and too heavy. But it pipes so prettily! My absolute favorite (which comes down a treat with friends and family too) is cream cheese frosting. But I have so far not found a recipe which gives me the proper piping consistency for a (professional) nice finish. I am constantly on the lookout and keep experimenting but the fails prevail until now.
I honestly hope it is not just me who ends up with an extremely runny cream cheese frosting more times than willing to admit. Just last night I was trying out a new recipe I came across which promised nicely piped frosting. But I failed again – or my basic hand mixer which only has slow and fast let me down (I like to believe it is the latter otherwise I end up doubting if I am any good in the kitchen at all). As I write this, an emergency (recycled) cheesecake is in the oven – I didn’t have the heart to throw yet another bowl of runny icing, after my ridiculous cream cheese quest from the previous post, let alone all the nice ingredients which went is, as well as me spending plenty of time trying to make/fix it.
So I need my dear readers’ advice – pretty please, share it in the comments or write me an email. What would you do? Try out new cream cheese frosting recipes until you find a fool-proof one or settle for buttercream which isn’t tasty but looks good? Help!
Courgettes have recently become my favorite vegetable to add to cake. Sorry, carrots! But since I’ve made mine award-wining cake way too many times since December, I wanted to try something new. Here I present a recipe for a lush chocolate courgette cake – this time the courgettes are rather unnoticeable taste-wise but they give the chocolate cake the extra bit of moisture any cake needs. Yum! Here we go…
Chocolate courgette cake with cream cheese filling
- 4 eggs
- 250g plain flour
- 375g caster sugar
- 350ml vegetable oil
- 350g grated courgette
- 65g cocoa powder
- 2 tsp. baking soda
- 1 tsp. baking powder
- 2tsp. cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 100g mixed chopped nuts (or almonds or hazelnuts – according to preference)
In a deep bowl, mix the flour, sugar, baking soda & powder, salt, cocoa and cinnamon. Mix well until it is all blended.
In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs lightly. Add to dry mix together with the oil and whisk everything together. If the dough is too thick, you can add a little hot water but I left it thick as the courgettes add plenty of moisture afterwards. Grate the courgette and add it to the chocolate mix. Stir in the chopped nuts. Butter and flour the sides of a 9-inch cake tin, butter and line the bottom of it. If you like, you can bake the 2 layers of the cake in 2 tins: just split mix in 2 but I like to bake one and cut it into 2 slices.
Bake in a preheated oven to 180 degrees Celsius for about an hour or until a skewer comes out clean.
Split cake in two. Prepare THIS cream cheese frosting. Spread plenty between layers and ice the cake with the rest. Decorate as desired.
Behold the finished product:
Strawberries have started popping up at the supermarket – joy! Especially for the converted cake eater I share most of my life with (besides when I am in the kitchen when he knows well he is to leave me alone!). Now, when we first started dating, he would never eat cake but would demolish any quantity of chocolate chip cookies you are stupid enough to give him access to. Whether the smells coming out of the oven have enticed him over time or my constant requests to try this and that and tell me if he likes it have changed his mind, I don’t know. But recently he has started voluntarily eating cake. Not all types, of course, but as he says: baby steps.
Seeing as it was his birthday yesterday (and his work colleagues had ‘gently’ hinted they are expecting cake, those greedy chops!), on Saturday I asked him what he’d like me to bake it. It didn’t even take 3 seconds for him to decide he wants his favorite strawberry and white chocolate cupcakes. I owe the recipe for the base to the Marks & Spencers book Sensational cupcakes. The addition of the strawberries and chocolate was a lucky hunch which has proven to be a success. I did two batches of the batter – one I transformed into a Giant, and the other turned into actual cupcakes. So behold, first a picture of the finished Giant which birthday boy took to work, and then the recipe!
Light strawberries and white chocolate cupcakes with cream cheese frosting
For the batter (makes either 1 Giant or 24 cupcakes):
- 60 ml whole milk
- 4 large egg whites
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 225 g plain flour
- 200 g caster sugar
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon ground cardamom (or if you, like me, are never able to find it, skip it)
- 190 g unsalted butter, softened (or if you, like me, forget to leave it at room temperature, melt it slightly in the microwave)
- + approx. 300 g fresh strawberries (or cherries work as well but are more of a pain to pit) & 100 g white chocolate chip cookies
For the cream cheese frosting:
- 200-250 g of full-fat Philadelphia cheese (NB: At room temperature. The longer it sits out of the fridge, the better. Not 2 weeks though, please!)
- 40 g butter
- Icing sugar to taste (I don’t like overly sweet frosting so normally put around 100 g but up to you)
- 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 170 degrees Celsius (fan oven: 150 degrees) or gas mark 3 1/2.
Mix the milk, egg whites and vanilla together in a medium sized bowl till fluffy and set aside. In a large bowl, mix the dry ingredients to blend. Add the butter to the dry ingredients (I prefer to melt it before as it makes it easier, especially in winter when room temperature is significantly lower) and half the beaten eggs. Mix slowly till everything is moist, then beat vigorously for 1 minute. Add the remaining eggs and beat again. Add chocolate and strawberries. TIP: Gently cover the chopped strawberries with a little flour – this will keep them from sinking to the bottom. Spoon the batter into cupcake cases which you have put in your cupcake tray (or fill kind of equally in a Giant cupcake mold which you have first buttered then sprinkled with flour) – you would need to fill the cases 3/4 as these won’t rise as much as others. Bake cupcakes 25-30 mins or Giant cupcake about an hour or even sligthly more, till they are golden and a skewer comes out clean.
While the cakes are in the oven, beat the cream cheese on a high speed till smooth yet fluffy (2-3 minutes). Add vanilla extract and beat for a bit again. Then put the mixer speed down and slowly add icing sugar until the mixture has the proper frosting consistency (or you think one more sugar dust and you risk diabetes). Leave in fridge for at least 40 mins to set.
Once the cakes have cooled down, take the frosting out of the fridge and decorate. Voilà!