Saturday, August 14, 2010

Just for fun

Aside from a bit of housework, I really didn't have much planned for my Saturday. Having finished the cleaning and tidying, I picked up my Edmonds book, thinking to find something to keep me occupied for a while. I wasn't really in need of further baking (still eating fruit cake) but just felt like doing something in the kitchen.

Eventually, I decided it would be fun to make orange cupcakes (p47), another variety on the standard cupcake recipe. I'd enjoyed making the tiny cupcakes I did for Mothers' Day, so I decided to make my orange ones in the same diminutive size. A half mix would produce 12 miniature cupcakes - more than enough for me to eat before they go stale!

I went for a walk to the local fruit and vege shop and got myself an orange. Upon returning, I creamed butter and sugar with the orange zest, beat in an egg, then added flour, baking powder and milk. This mixture was spooned into paper cases lining my small muffin pans. I ended up overfilling them slightly, to use up all the mixture.

Because of this,the cupcakes came out slightly pointier than the ideal cupcake shape, but that didn't matter - the orange icing (p77) was not thick enough to give extra height to the cupcakes. In fact, seeing the shape of the cupcake, I deliberately left it slightly runny, thinking it would look quite nice dribbling down from the point. But as usual, I had underestimated the runniness of the icing, and it dribbled everywhere.

The decoration is usually the main point of cupcakes - one of the reasons I'd chosen cupcakes is that I thought I'd enjoy the decorating. However, confronted with the reality of 12 cupcakes encased in runny (and, as I discovered when the icing began to dry) lumpy icing, I had no creative inspiration at all. The best I could come up with was to melt some chocolate and drizzle that over the top, preferably in an interesting pattern.

I threw some chocolate chips into the microwave on a low heat. As they melted, I added a little butter, but was unable to get the chocolate to a drizzling consistency. I'd almost given up (in fact, I was snacking on the partially-melted chocolate, thinking I had no other use for it) when I spied the remaining half of the orange on the bench. With nothing to lose, I squeezed some orange juice into the chocolate. To my astonishment, it thinned down the chocolate immediately.

When the chocolate was thin enough, I used a teaspoon to drizzle it over the cupcakes. Initially I tried spiral patterns but the flow of chocolate from the teaspoon was so uneven as to make the results ridiculous. I settled for flicking the chocolate back and forth across the grouped cupcakes.

When both the chocolate and the orange icing had set, I had a dozen unimaginatively decorated, but quite tasty jaffa cupcakes. The cupcakes themselves are a little dry in texture; I'd noticed this with my previous cupcakes, but thought it was because I'd baked them the night before decorating them. These ones were iced and tasted on the same day as I baked them, but were still a little dry.

The icing is the main focus of both the appearance and the flavour of a cupcake: the orange icing on this one has a pleasant tang which cuts through the sugary sweetness, but it was the chocolate-orange drizzle that provided the flavour that turned a fairly boring orange cupcake into a tasty jaffa one.

I've come to the conclusion that cupcakes are not really my thing. They're more about the decoration than the actual cake. I always think they'll be fun to decorate, but I'm no genius with icing (always, always too runny) and the few ideas I do have for decoration don't come out right. Still, I'll be getting some more practice yet: there are still 3 cupcake recipes to go!

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