Bacon chocolate cupcakes

Down the road from my office is a van, occupied by a man called Bacon Dave. You can guess what gourmet delights come from his van…

Bacon Dave is very popular with my colleagues, particularly the boys, and so when one of their birthdays came around I decided that whatever I made would have to contain bacon – whether it tasted nice or not.

I wanted to go down the chocolate route, because if there’s anything that will make bacon taste ok, that’s it. I found a recipe by Simon Rimmer which I used as the base recipe, then just tweaked it by throwing in some caramelised white chocolate chunks for extra sweetness and switching the frosting to a simple cocoa buttercream.

The reactions were very, VERY mixed. The birthday boy actually had a cold and said he couldn’t taste the bacon, whereas another colleague thought the bacon was overwhelming and didn’t like it.

I thought it was weird, but I had more of an issue with the texture than the taste. My housemate on the other hand loved them and ate two, so I guess it just comes down to personal taste!

If you like bacon it might be worth giving these a go, but for me I don’t think I’ll be likely to use bacon in anything sweet for quite a while…

Bacon chocolate cupcakes (adapted from Simon Rimmer’s recipe)

  • 6 slices bacon, grilled until crispy
  • 75g milk chocolate
  • 75g white chocolate
  • 115g plain flour
  • 25g cocoa powder
  • 125g caster sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 medium egg
  • 25ml strong coffee, cooled
  • 115ml sour cream
  • 60ml vegetable oil

For the icing:

  • 60g butter
  • 150g icing sugar
  • 30g cocoa powder
  • 1-2 tbsp milk

Start by melting the milk chocolate, then crumble up the bacon and mix two thirds of it into the chocolate. Spread this out on a piece of baking paper or tin foil and leave to set. Make the caramelised white chocolate by chopping the chocolate and placing in a baking dish in the oven on a low temperature. Stir every 5-10 minutes until it’s golden and caramelised, then stir in 1/2 tsp salt and spread out on baking paper or foil to set, as with the milk chocolate. When both are completely set, chop into chunks ready to use in the cupcakes.

To make the cake mix, sift all the dry ingredients together into a large bowl and mix well. In another bowl beat together all the wet ingredients, then fold this into the dry mix along with the chocolate chips. Divide the mixture between 9-10 large cupcake cases and bake at 180 degrees (160 fan) for 20-25 minutes, or until well risen and a skewer comes out clean.

For the icing, beat the butter to soften, then sift in half the sugar and beat to combine. Sift in the remaining sugar and cocoa powder and beat again. Once it comes together, add a tablespoon of milk and keep beating until light and fluffy, adding a little more milk if necessary. Spread the icing over the cooled cupcakes, then sprinkle the remaining bits on top.

Delicious?!

Strawberry cheesecake cupcakes

strawberry cheesecake cupcakes

The Hummingbird Bakery is possibly THE most well known of all the American-style bakeries and cupcake shops in the UK, so when I was London for a friends birthday the other month, I decided I had to pay a visit to see what all the fuss is about.

I met up with a cake-loving friend and headed to their branch in Soho, which I believe is one of the smaller ones and I’ve heard tales of their being queues out the door, but we were lucky and managed to grab a couple of the bar style seats to eat our cake.

The choice isn’t ridiculously huge, but definitely enough to make it difficult for someone as indecisive as me. They have the ‘classic’ cupcake flavours – vanilla, chocolate, carrot, red velvet and black bottom – as well as two monthly specials which were hummingbird cake and something with bacon (so wrong). They also had I think 6 cakes and cheesecakes sold by the slice and some brownies, whoopie pies and rocky road.

I went for the red velvet as I’ve only ever tried a homemade version and wanted to see if theirs was better. My friend had the black bottom cupcake, and then we decided we’d also share a slice of chocolate cake. The cupcakes were both really, really good, and although there was no way we could finish such a rich cake afterwards we did both try it and like it a lot.

By pure coincidence, about a week after our visit to the bakery, one of my friends at work asked me if I’d like to borrow her copy of the Hummingbird Bakery cookbook (the original, self titled one).

After such an awesome cake experience I had to say yes, and knew that the first recipe I tried would have to be cupcakes, the only question was which.

As this was when it was still hot and sunny, and the autumnal feeling was still to set in, I decided to use the last of the seasons strawberries and attempt these strawberry cheesecake cupcakes.

They basically consist of a vanilla sponge with juicy strawberries baked in, the classic Hummingbird cream cheese frosting, as featured on the red velvet and black bottom cupcakes above, and a sprinkling of biscuit crumbs on top.

I really loved these, the sponge is light but moist from the strawberries, the cream cheese icing is the best I’ve tried, and you get a bit of all the different tastes in each bite. The only thing I did that deviated from the recipe was only using a fraction of the amount of biscuits given for the topping – it still looks like plenty to me!

I would definitely make these again when strawberry season comes back around, and I’m looking forward to baking more from the Hummingbird book – I may even buy the more recent ones to see if they’re just as good…

Strawberry cheesecake cupcakes (adapted from the Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook)

  • 120g plain flour
  • 140g caster sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • pinch salt
  • 40g butter
  • 120ml milk
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • 12 large strawberries, chopped small

For the icing and topping:

  • 50g butter
  • 300g icing sugar
  • 125g cream cheese
  • 40g digestive biscuits

Mix together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large mixing bowl, then beat in the butter until the mixture forms a sandy consistency – almost like making shortbread. Add the milk and vanilla and beat to combine, then add the egg and beat again. Divide the chopped strawberries between 12 large cupcake cases, spoon in the cake batter on top, and bake at 170 degrees for 20-25 minutes, or until risen, golden and a skewer comes out clean.

To make the icing, beat together the butter and icing sugar. I find this can only be done by adding the icing sugar a quarter at a time, and adding a little of the cream cheese if the mixture won’t come together. Once the butter and sugar are well creamed, at the cream cheese and beat until light and fluffy, around 4-5 minutes. But as Hummingbird Bakery warn you, don’t overbeat or it will become runny!

Top each cupcake with a swirl of icing, using a spatula to smooth down the sides. Blitz the digestives in a food processor, then sprinkle on top of the cupcakes to finish.

How to make Christmas tree cupcakes

Christmas tree cupcakes

Way back in September, when everyone else was trying to hang on the last glimpses of summer sun (I’m sure there were some, at some point…) I was looking ahead to Christmas, and testing out a few festive recipes, which I’m excited to finally be able to share here!

One of the most fun parts of my day job is helping to produce a magazine called Explore, which is published quarterly in Plymouth. For the Winter edition, we decided to go big on homemade food, drink and gifts, so I ended up making a spiced cranberry and pear chutney, mulled wine, Christmas tree cupcakes, and these way over-decorated gingerbread families that I just have to share a picture of…

If you’re thinking the photography is a step up from my normal pictures, you’d be right – all the photos were taken by a professional photographer called Guy Channing who did a fabulous job making my food look good – thanks Guy!

If you want to see the rest of my recipes, along with top tips for making and decorating the best ever Christmas cake, handmade decorations and a last minute festive shopping guide, you can download a digital version of the magazine here.

I won’t bother giving the recipe as any basic cupcake and icing will do, but here are the step by step pictures and instructions for some fabulously festive Christmas tree cupcakes – enjoy!

Christmas tree cupcakes

What you need:

  • 12 regular sized cupcakes
  • 6 petit four sized cupcakes
  • Sugarpaste or marzipan
  • Buttercream icing
  • Green food colouring – gel is best
  • Edible decorations – I used edible silver balls and multi-coloured chocolate beans

To prepare the cupcakes, use a serrated knife to level the tops of all the cakes, and mix the green food colouring into the icing a little at a time until you reach the colour you want.

Spread a layer of icing on top of the six regular sized cupcakes that you’re going to use as the Christmas tree bases (keep them in the cases). Remove the other six regular sized cupcakes from their cases and place upside down on top of the bases.

Spread another layer of icing on top, then remove the petit four cakes from their cases and place upside down on top to create a third cake layer. On top of that, add a little more icing and a small blob of marzipan or sugarpaste, pressed into a cone shape.

With the remaining icing, completely cover the cakes, using a spatula to spread it down the sides to the top of the paper case of the bottom layer.

Decorate with whatever edible decorations you like – silver or coloured balls, glitter, stars, sweets – it’s up to you!

Christmas tree cupcakes

Coconut cupcakes with strawberry jam hearts (GF)

Coconut cupcakes have been on my mind for ages now.

Originally I planned to make pina colada cupcakes with a pineapple curd filling, but the curd recipe didn’t turn out great so I put them on hold; then it was going to be coconut and Nutella, but I didn’t have any; then a white chocolate coconut ganache filling, but that didn’t work, so FINALLY I settled on simple coconut cupcakes with strawberry jam filling and coconut cream cheese icing!

I wanted to make these to take into work so they had to be wheat and gluten free, so I adapted the recipe for the cupcakes from this one at Cooking Classy, and subbed regular plain flour for gluten free.

The only other change I made was slightly altering the egg quantities, so I was really pleased when these baked with a nice, light but not dry texture, as I know sometimes GF flours can be a bit tricky to work with.

The cupcakes went down really well with everyone who tried one, and the cream cheese icing, adapted from a Dan Lepard recipe was a revelation – it’s the first one I’ve made that didn’t need half a box of icing sugar but was the perfect consistency, not at all runny!

Oh, and I almost forgot – I think I’m finally starting to get the hang of fancy piping techniques! Although the sprinkling of coconut on top can hide all manner of sins…

Coconut cupcakes with strawberry jam hearts (adapted from Cooking Classy)

Makes 16-18 cupcakes

  • 50g desiccated coconut
  • 210g gf plain flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 170g butter
  • 270g caster sugar
  • 3 whole eggs, one egg white
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 185ml coconut milk

For filling and icing

  • 2 tbsp strawberry jam
  • 200g butter
  • 200g icing cugar
  • 400g cream cheese
  • 50g desiccated coconut, plus extra for decoration

Start by grinding the desiccated coconut in a food processor to get it as fine as you can. Add it to the flour, baking powder and salt and set aside. Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, then beat in the eggs a little at a time, followed by the vanilla. Fold in 1/3 of the flour/coconut mix, then 1/3 of the coconut milk, then repeat, folding in alternately until all the ingredients have been used.

Line a cupcake tin with cases and spoon the mixture into them, about 2/3 full. Bake at 180 degrees for 20 minutes or until risen, golden and a skewer comes out clean. Transfer to a wire rack and leave to cool.

To fill with the jam, I use an apple corer which cuts really need holes in the cakes (dodgy picture below as it was getting dark) – you could use a knife to cut holes if you want though. Heat the jam a little to make it easier to pour, then add a little into the hole of each cupcake and place the tops back on.

For the icing, beat the butter to soften, then add in the icing sugar and half the cream cheese. Using an electric mixer, beat until no lumps remain and it looks light and creamy. Add the remaining cream cheese and coconut, beat quickly until just combined, then leave in the fridge for half an hour to firm up a bit before piping or spooning on to the cupcakes. Sprinkle a little more coconut on top and you’re done!

Red velvet cupcakes

Red velvet cake has been on my to-bake list for quite a long time, and when better to try it than Valentine’s Day?

I’m not much of a romantic, but who could resist a deep red cake, topped with swirls of cream cheese icing – in red cases, dotted with white hearts, of course…

The red velvet cupcakes I’ve had in the past have actually always been a disappointment – dry sponge and heaps of too-sweet icing – but I still wanted to give them a go to see what the fuss was about.

I used a recipe from the Hummingbird Bakery, which seems to be widely regarded as the best recipe around.

The cakes didn’t disappoint – they were actually surprisingly light, and the cream cheese icing was just the right side of sweet, unlike so many of the shop bought cupcakes I’ve had.

The only slight negative was, as the pony put it, “they’re a bit more like orange velvet” – not quite as deep red as I would have liked…

Oh, and I still have a way to go to mastering the Hummingbird Bakery icing technique…

I followed the recipe exactly so no point re-posting it, but it can be found on Good To Know’s website if you want to give it a go.