Entry 16: Living In Interesting Times

Well folks, last month was an…interesting…month.

For those that don’t know their popular culture, “May you live in interesting times” is supposedly a Chinese curse inferring that “interesting” is a euphemism for “stress filled, depressing nightmare”. These past four weeks have certainly been proof of that. Suffice to say things got very unpleasant at work and for a while I was afraid I was going to lose my job and home. The jury’s still out on that at the moment. =/

As a result, I haven’t really been in much of a baking mood lately but there have been a couple of things I’ve been fooling around in the kitchen with. The first of which was a very valiant attempt at making cupcakes. My sister-in-law (Hi Sarah!) makes absolutely legendary cupcakes in all kinds of wonderful colours and flavours and I figured I’d have a shot at it as well. It’s just sponge with an ungodly amount of sugar on. How hard could it be?

The Koala was going to end up weighing a lot more after the cupcakes were finished.

The Koala was going to end up weighing a lot more after the cupcakes were finished.

I attempted this at the beginning of September, which seems like a lifetime ago. A transgender friend of mine had a birthday coming and I thought I’d have a go at making some cupcakes in blue, pink and white frosting; the same colours as the transgender pride flag. However before I could do the frosting, the cupcakes themselves needed to be made.

A Koala of many colours.

A Koala of many colours.

The first step was lining the cupcake tins with papers and I found some really wonderful pink and blue ones in my local arts shop. It’s the same one that I bought the truffle box from for Entry 2.

I have a confession to make – as it’s been quite a while since I attempted to make these, I’m not 100% sure that this is the same recipe I used but it looks like a close enough match:

http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/470633/pistachio-cupcakes

Not being a huge fan of pistachios, I swapped them out for some cocoa powder, so that I’d have a chocolatey base for the cupcakes. I beat together the sugar and butter, as I’ve done for so many sponge cakes in the past. In fact, it’s reached the stage where I can do it in my sleep. Or to be more precise:

"Hey, where are you off to? Why are you laying in bed?!"

“Hey, where are you off to? Why are you laying in bed?!”

…someone else can do it in my sleep.

A brief siesta later and the rest of the ingredients were slowly added until the main mixture was ready:

Even before baking, the cupcakes were looking good.

Even before baking, the cupcakes were looking good.

I doubled up on the ingredients for the sponge as I was aiming to make quite a few of them. So where the ingredients called for 140g of golden caster sugar, I used 280g, as an example. Yet even with the added extras, the quantities seemed a little off:

"Yeah, very funny, where's the rest of the mixture?"

“Yeah, very funny, where’s the rest of the mixture?”

As you can see, the amount of mixture was much, much less than I was lead to believe from the recipe. I was also very unsure how much mixture I was supposed to put in each case. Should I fill it up to the brim? Just use a dessert spoon’s worth? It’s very frustrating. I looked at a few other recipes and again, none of them gave any indication as to how much mixture was to be put in each case. In the end, I think I went with two dessert spoons per case and crossed my fingers.

"Hrmm. I have a funny sinking feeling about this..."

“Hrmm. I have a funny sinking feeling about this…”

As usual, my assistant was right on the money. The fact that the cupcakes had cracked across the top was a strong indicator that they hadn’t cooked properly. After leaving them out of the oven for 30 mins, my suspicions were confirmed:

The finished cupcakes. "Finished" being a highly relative term.

The finished cupcakes. “Finished” being a highly relative term.

Out of the nine, only one of them had baked all the way through. In fairness, the one that did turned out very nicely. Spongy, chocolatey yet firm to the touch; if the other 8 had been like it I would have been able to proceed to frosting them and just lamented the quantity later. However, despite the failure of this recipe, it was rather instructive:

Autopsy of a Cupcake. Coming soon to a cinema near you.

Autopsy of a Cupcake. Coming soon to a cinema near you.

 Although it hasn’t come out amazingly well in the photo, there was a very clear distinction between the layer of the cupcake that had baked well and that which hadn’t. In the top cupcake, there’s a flat line diving the baked and unbaked halves. In the lower one, only the base and sides have baked, with the centre still very gooey and underdone. The lesson here is not to over fill the cupcake cases and perhaps give them a little longer in the oven. I’m quite happy to try the cupcakes again (possibly with a slightly different recipe) but I think I’ll ask my sister-in-law for a few pointers next time.

 

3 responses to “Entry 16: Living In Interesting Times

  1. Did they at least taste good?

    Unsolicited advice ahead: It looks like you got the correct amount of filling in each cup — usually you want to fill the cup 2/3-3/4 full, depending on how much you want it to rise outside of the cup. I suspect your problem was mostly in the substitution of cocoa powder, as that would have affected the moisture content in the recipe, which makes a huge difference in baking.

    • Hi Emily!

      Yeah they tasted pretty good but the texture wasn’t very nice. I remember adding a fair bit of cocoa powder to them; the marble cake I made the week before wasn’t very chocolatey in taste and I wanted to avoid that mistake with this one. If you know of a good recipe for a chocolate cupcake base I’d be very, very interested.

      • I actually don’t like chocolate cake much (I think cocoa powder is icky), so I don’t have many recipes I’ve personally tried. I know that older Betty Crocker books usually have good basic recipes. I’ve also liked what I have tried off of this website: http://www.woodlandbakeryblog.com/ and I know she has a couple of chocolate cake recipes that others have liked. I think she also has a post on converting a cake recipe to cupcakes (all you change is how you bake it).

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