Mont Blanc Cupcakes

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

mont blanc cupcake

What’s this hiding in the freezer? Peeled chestnuts! Excellent. Our lovely friend W had given us a bag of farm fresh chestnuts back in autumn, and I’m glad I’ve squirreled some away.

Freshly roasted chestnuts were a special treat when we were growing up.Street vendors (hawkers) would set up massive woks filled with what I assume to be small bits of hot charcoal (sometimes mixed with coffee beans). The nuts would be stirred and cooked in the coals and the smell wafting down the street would set our tummies rumbling.

With a package of hot chestnuts bewteen us, my brother and I would peel away, ignoring burnt fingers as we raced each other to gobble up as many nuts as possible.

Chestnuts can be a pain to peel, but I find the best way to do it is via the boiling method (as recommended in The Cook’s Companion). First, score outer skins – I just use scissors to snip crosses into the pointy ends, then simmer nuts for 15 minutes. Remove
one nut at a time from water and peel. The inner skins are easier to remove when warm.

If eating them straight, I definitely prefer the taste of oven roasted chestnuts (about 15-20 mins at 180˚C). Don’t forget to snip the skins though. Cleaning bits of exploded chestnuts out of the oven is not a fun way to spend the day (been there, done that).

Since I’d frozen the chestnuts, the texture wasn’t going to be the best for straight eating, so I made them into sweetened chestnut puree. Then into Mont Blanc inspired cupcakes.

The recipe please...
I devised my own recipe using the formula and tips found on this baking science website. A successful attempt as you can see. Here’s the recipe if you’d like to try it too.

Sweet chestnut puree
  • 500g peeled chestnuts
  • 1 cup milk (or enough to barely cover nuts in a saucepan)
  • about 3 tablespoons caster sugar (adjust according to taste)
Stir sugar into milk then pour over nuts in a small saucepan. Simmer over low heat until chestnuts are soft (about 20 minutes or more). Drain the chestnuts, reserving milk. Let cool a little, then puree the nuts finely (I used a stick blender), adding milk to adjust consistency.

chestnut cupcakes

Chestnut cupcakes
(makes 12 medium cupcakes)
  • 100g flour
  • 125g sugar
  • 60g butter (softened at room temperature)
  • 60g sweetened chestnut puree
  • 2 eggs
  • 2-3 tbsps reserved milk (depending on dryness of chestnuts)
  • 1½ teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
(Whenever I want a fluffy cake, I use the mixing method recommended in The Cake Bible. If you're interested in why it works, I'd definitely urge you to try and get your hands on the book )

Preheat oven to 180˚C and line cupcake pans with cases. Sift dry ingredient into bowl and beat on low speed for about half a minute or so. Lightly beat eggs and vanilla extract and two tablespoons of the milk together until well mixed. I usually do this in a jug.

Put butter and half the egg mixture into the dry ingredients. Beat on low speed until the flour is incorporated, then increase the speed (I use hand-beaters, so this means high speed) and beat until the mix is light. Scrape down sides of bowl if necessary.

Add chestnut puree and rest of egg mixture in two batches, beating well each time. Again, scrape down the sides of the bowl if needed. Add more milk if necessary (if mixture seems too dry).
Spoon/pipe into cupcake cases and bake for about 12-15 minutes or until golden. Cool on wire rack.

To decorate:
  • 1 cup thick cream whipped with 1 tsp sugar and ½ tsp vanilla extract (or seeds if feeling extravagant).
  • 1 cup sweetened chestnut puree.
If the chestnut puree is too thick, stir in a little bit (abt 1 tbsp) of whipped cream to lighten. Spoon whipped cream and puree into opposite sides of the same piping bag, (rest bag in a glass). See photo (sorry it’s not a very good pic, I only own a little happy snappy camera).

two coloured icing in piping bag
Pipe onto cooled cupcakes. Store uneaten decorated cakes in an airtight container in the fridge but bring to room temperature before serving. The texture of the cakes becomes denser when cold.

Of patisseries and pears

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Just as I was lamenting the cold and grey of winter, Sydney turned on one of those stunning blue-sky days (a ‘corker’, in Aussie vernacular). As I took the ferry into the city, I savoured the sunshine and counted my blessings.

The famous harbour was dotted with an improbable number of yachts and boats. Tourists around me clicked cameras and waved madly to people on other watercraft.

yachts on sydney harbour

Once docked, I met up with my friend YK, and we headed into The Rocks for a quick lunch and a long chat. Apres lunch, we ended up at Sydney institution La Renaissance Patisserie (47 Argyle St, The Rocks, Sydney, NSW) for coffee and cake.

la renaissance patisserie
This café has been going strong for over 30 years, and while the décor and furniture have seen better days, it’s all forgotten when you’re face-to-face with the dazzling array of sweet treats in the glass-fronted counter. (All the goodies are made in-house and you can view some of them online).

We endured a small (yet growing) queue, but tables turned over quickly and service was brisk and efficient. A few more smiles wouldn’t have gone astray but, to be fair, it was a busy Sunday.

We decided on a trio of macarons to share ($10 per 100g), including a dark chocolate ganache version (Valrhona), a salted caramel (Fleur de Sel) and an olive oil macaron with white chocolate ganache. We also ordered a couple of (very drinkable) coffees, which took the bill to $14.70 - pretty reasonable considering a similar selection at some of the franchised ‘chocolate cafes’ in town would set you back much more.

macaron trio
(From front to back: dark chocolate, olive oil and salted caramel)

YK and I split each macaron in half and savoured every bite, dissecting the flavours as we went. I thought the texture was perfect, but YK had higher standards. We both agreed, however, the flavours were superb and it was a hard call picking a favourite. We decided that the dark chocolate was the winner in the classic division, and the salted caramel the winner in the contemporary division. YK commented that the salty caramel reminded her of childhood lollies – butter toffees.

All too soon, my afternoon of indulgence ended, and I headed back home, watching the same joyful parade of boats, yachts and tourists, but in reverse. To celebrate, I decided to end the day with an homage to sails and French food.

coconut boats pear sails

Coconut boats with pear “sails” and chocolate sauce.
(A Test with Skewer take on Poire Belle-Helene)

Pear “sails”
(Method based on one found in Australian Women’s Weekly Cupcakes)
Slice a pear as thinly as possible (I wish I had a mandolin for this), and brush both surfaces with light sugar syrup. Dry on a wire rack in a slow oven (120˚C) for about 40 minutes or until crisp.

Chocolate sauce
Use your favourite recipe. I used ¼ cup milk, ¼ cup cream, roughly 60g dark chocolate and a cinnamon quill gently heated together. Stir until melted.

Coconut boats
Shape a scoop of vanilla ice-cream (store bought for me) using two spoons until boat like. Roll in dessicated coconut and freeze on baking paper until needed. (Yes, again with the coconut. I was using up leftovers you see).

To serve:
Pour chocolate sauce onto plate, top with coconut boats, then arrange pear sails over that.

(Well, so they don’t look very boat-like but they tasted great)

The souffle also rises.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Winter is not my favourite season. When it’s cold and wet, I find myself yearning for the heat and light of an Australian summer. I miss the lazy drone of cicadas, the beach days, and most of all, the abundance of stone fruit and fresh berries.

When summer seems like such a long way away, I turn to the kitchen for a dose of warmth.

Luckily, I’d had the foresight to stash some cherries in the freezer. (Mr Kitchen Hand bought a box of them from a friend’s farm the previous summer.)

watercolour cherry

Memories of fresh coconut.

I pair the cherries with coconut. The very mention of coconut evokes images of sunshine and tropical beaches. As a child, growing up in tropical Malaysia, I remember being sent to buy bags of freshly grated coconut (kelapa parut) from the corner store. I loved watching the deft way in which the shopkeeper could crack the nut in half, with just a whack or two of a special machete-like knife. After pouring out the juice (usually into the open drain!), the coconut halves would be held against a spiky metal “shredder” which was rotated at high speed by a motor. A metal or plastic basin surrounded the shredder to catch all the flying bits of coconut. The shredded coconut was then brushed to the bottom of the basin, and the shopkeeper would gather up the pile using a plastic bag turned inside out over their hand. Flip the bag inside out, a quick tie at the top and voila, one freshly grated coconut.

coconut paring machine

But for now, dessicated coconut and canned coconut cream will have to do in the soufflé I’ve decided to try. After reading up on souffle basics , I put together what I hoped would be a workable recipe: Coconut Souffle with Stewed Cherries. Did it rise?

Yes it did! But trying to photograph a hot soufflé on a cold day is a task I am sadly ill-equipped for. By the time I get the soufflé from the oven to the plate, arrange the cherries and frame the shot, it’s started to deflate. So I give up in frustration and tackle it with a spoon instead. Much happier result.

coconut souffle stewed cherries
Stewed cherries
Roughly 450g frozen cherries – thawed (save juices)
(I’ve left the pips in so the cherries hold their shape. Just warn guests/kids beforehand)
100g (1/2 cup sugar)
1 cinnamon quill

1 tbsp lemon juice

1 tbsp water/cherry juices (to dissolve sugar)

Put all ingredients in a saucepan, stir gently over low heat until sugar dissolves then simmer for about 10-20 minutes (or more if needed) until thick and syrupy. Cool until required. Can be made ahead and refrigerated.

Coconut soufflé.
Toast about 2 tbsp of dessicated coconut until light brown. Mix with 1 tsp sugar. Butter 4 small moulds then coat sides with sugar and coconut mixture. (I used 200ml custard pots with tall sides)

2 egg yolks
2 tbsp sugar
¼ cup milk
¼ cup coconut cream
1 strip lemon peel
2 egg whites
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp lemon juice
1tsp toasted dessicated coconut.

Put milk, coconut cream and lemon peel in a small saucepan and scald (turn off and remove from heat just before boiling point). Leave to infuse (I stored mine in the fridge overnight, covered with plastic wrap)

Preheat oven to about 190˚C.
In a mixing bowl, beat egg yolks and sugar with a fork until well mixed. Remove lemon peel from milk/cream mixture, and scald again. Pour immediately into egg mixture and stir thoroughly. Return to pan and cook gently stirring all the time until mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon. Strain if required.

Beat egg whites and 1 tsp sugar and lemon juice until stiff. Mix a little bit of egg whites into egg yolk mixture to lighten. Then fold the rest of the whites and the toasted coconut into the egg yolk mixture, do not overmix.

Pour into soufflé moulds and bake until risen (about 20 mins - check at 15 minutes but do not open oven door!).

Welcome home honey - now hand over that chocolate.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

koko black box

Hubby had been down to Melbourne, and brought pressies home. Gorgeous Koko Black chocolates to be precise.

koko black packaging

Chocolate and I go waaaay back. My favourite chocolate memory is of my grandmother surreptitiously palming us tiny Cadbury dairy milk chocolates whenever we saw her. She usually had a stash in her handbag, along with her cosmetics bag, so the chocolates always tasted faintly of Yardley’s English Lavender talc. (She was well ahead of her time in terms of food pairings).

Over the years, my tastes have matured, and the downside of being selective is that I find a lot of chocolate underwhelming. These luscious offerings from Koko Black however…excitement in a box! And so beautifully presented too (I’m a sucker for illustration on packaging).

chocolates on plate

I haven’t had the chance to visit an actual Koko Black salon (love how they use the word salon - so elegant), but it’s definitely on my to-do list. Especially after tasting the eight morsels in my gift box.

The envelope please.

Here is the final list of my Koko Black tasting experience, in ascending order:

  • 8. Category: Truffle. Flavour: Classic Belgian chocolate.
    The only reason this made number 8 - it wasn’t as interesting or as multi-layered as the other flavours. However, it was still a very good truffle, starting off with a hit of rich bitterness from the cocoa powder, followed by the smoothness of ganache.

  • 7. Category: Moulded praline. Flavour: Caramel
    I usually ignore caramel chocolates, as they tend to be sickly sweet, gooey concoctions that stick to the teeth. I was pleasantly surprised by the Koko Black version. It had a creamy mouthfeel and subtle flavour. If you like caramel bold and brassy, this isn’t for you, but I really enjoyed it. A very genteel caramel offering.

  • 6. Category: Moulded praline. Flavour: Sienna Strawberry.
    Again, I’m not a fan of the usual strawberry filled chocolates. They tend to be supersweet, pink and cloying. But this filling had just the right note of "real" tasting strawberry and the luscious texture of ganache. (I've just found out that they DO use real strawberries! Yum.) See addendum at the end.

  • 5. Category: Moulded praline. Flavour: Mango and vanilla.
    The perfume of mango hits your senses on first bite. The flavour then smoothens out into the vanilla notes. A lovely, balanced interpretation.

  • 4. Category: Moulded praline: Flavour: Raspberry.
    I have a soft spot for raspberry/chocolate pairings and this one did not disappoint. A full raspberry flavour balanced by the richness of ganache.

  • 3. Category: Enrobed pralines. Flavour: Hazelnut crisp.
    This one looks so decadent, like a gold flecked chocolate bar. The classical pairing of hazelnut and chocolate blend harmoniously, while the crispy wafer bits add depth and textural contrast to the creamy filling.

  • 2. Category: Moulded pralines. Flavour: Bailey’s.
    I’m quite surprised that I picked this as number two because I’m not really a Bailey’s drinker. But this chocolate was pure seduction. One whiff of the filling and I couldn’t wait to sink my teeth into it. And the taste of Bailey’s came through beautifully, without that alcoholic “kick” that can happen in some liquer chocolates.

  • 1. Category: Enrobed pralines. Hazelnut cluster.
    Looks can be deceiving. “Ho-hum, nuts dipped in chocolate,” I thought. How wrong! These were caramelised hazelnuts and gianduja enrobed in dark chocolate. I didn’t think hazelnuts and chocolate could be so exciting, but the crisp caramelised coating on the hazelnuts and the silky gianduja complemented each other beautifully.

Overall, I was very impressed with this Koko Black selection. They tasted very refined - chocolates for grown-ups. The flavours were interesting yet subtle, with sweetness kept to a minimum. And I could taste passion at work. A far cry from my handbag chocolate days.

Looks like hubby may just have to go on more business trips to Melbourne. Or better yet, I wonder if there’s a franchise available…hmmm….

If you've tried Koko Black chocolates too, share your thoughts with me.

Addendum: The good folks at Koko Black have this to say:

" The reason you didn't find them sickly or too sweet is because the chocolatiers don't use any artificial colours or preservatives when handcrafting the chocolate. So with the Sienna Strawberry, for example, the filling actually is real pureed strawberries.
There are no Koko Black franchises, as you joked at the end, because Koko Black is not a franchise – it is privately owned.
In fact Koko Black founder, Shane Hills, is a huge fan of the Baileys chocolate, so I’m not surprised that you like it so much."

Sable pastry, mandarin mousse pots and caramel mandarins.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

sable pastry mandarin mousse

It was the end of the week and I’d somehow ended up with two large mandarin halves in the fridge. The mini food critics had decided that they didn’t like daisy mandarins . To be honest, I couldn’t really blame them. The daisy mandarins had a beautiful colour and large juicy segments, but were quite difficult to peel and separate. And the flavour wasn’t as “mandariny” as the other mandarins.

I must confess, I’d never cooked with mandarins before, they seemed fiddly, and I find the flavour insipid compared to oranges (which I use in cooking quite a lot). But, I was determined to put the mandarins to good use! If anything, at least I’d have something to write about in Test With Skewer.

First, I juiced the mandarins and a spare lime quarter that I’d found in the fridge too. The combined juices went into a small saucepan and simmered on low heat to reduce and intensify the flavours. A trick I’d learnt from Steven Raichlen’s Miami Spice cookbook. After this treatment, I ended up with about ¼ cup of concentrated mandarin/lime juice.
What could I do with it?

A flick through Quick and Easy Small Cakes (by Kazuko Kawachi), and I had my answer : Mandarin mousse.

Mandarin Mousse (adapted from Quick and Easy Small Cakes:

3 egg yolks
40g sugar
1/4 cup mandarin/lime juice reduction (or other citrus juice of choice)
1 tbsp powdered gelatin
3 tbsp cold water
1 ½ cups whipping cream
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp Cointreau(none for the kids portions)

First up, soften the gelatin. I know you're meant to sprinkle the gelatin onto the water, but whenever I just mix the gelatin into the water, it seems to work fine. stir and leave to soften. Mix the egg yolks and the 40g sugar in a saucepan. Warm up the juice (I just put it in the microwave), then add to the egg mixture. Scald the mixture then immediately remove from heat and strain. Add in the softened gleatin and stir to dissolve.Then add about 1/2 cup of the cream and stir well. Leave to cool but not set.

Whip remaining cream and 1 tsp sugar. Fold into the cooled egg mixture and liquer (if using).

(The original recipe is poured over sponge cake in moulds, but I used little cups instead). Pour into moulds and refrigerate until set (at least 30 mins)

Since I was on a learning curve, I thought I’d attempt some sable pastry too. My very first attempt at sable pastry a couple of years ago wasn’t quite as successful as I’d have liked. They tasted good, but the tart cases I made were all wonky as I found the pastry very difficult to handle (the fact that it was high summer may have contributed somewhat!).

So out came my trusty The Cook’s Companion by Stephanie Alexander. This is how it goes:

Sable Pastry ( tweaked from The Cook’s Companion)
125g softened unsalted butter
¼ cup caster sugar
150g plain flour
¼ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground cloves (instead of the recommended nutmeg)
½ egg lightly beaten
dash of vanilla extract

Cream the butter and sugar in a food processor. When it's well mixed, add the egg and the sifted dry ingredients, pulse a few times until starting to combine and clump together. I was wary of overworking the pastry so I took it out just before it was ready, and put it into a mixing bowl. Then I used a spatula to gently smear and mix the pastry till it looked “right”.

Divide dough in half and make 2 discs. Wrap in plastic and chill for at least half an hour. Preheat oven to 180˚C and line two trays with baking paper. On a well floured work surface (it helps to flour the rolling pin as well), roll out 1 of the chilled disks to desired thickness.

I used a well floured egg ring to cut out the pastry. When I attempted to lift the cut circles onto the baking tray, they started to distort. Luckily, I had been rolling and cutting on baking paper, so I just removed the pastry from around the circles and carefully lifted the baking paper onto the tray instead. It worked a treat!

Refrigerate this tray for 15 minutes. Use the waiting time to work on the other disc. Prick the first tray of chilled dough, then bake until golden and crisp. Cool the biscuits on a wire rack and repeat with the second tray.

I also made some orange caramel sauce from The Cook’s Companion. (substituting mandarin juice for orange, and I added a clove to flavour the syrup). Then, removing all the pith from a small mandarin (Imperial this time to please the critics), I soaked the segments in the caramel for about half an hour, to get caramel mandarins.

I was very pleased with the results. The mousse is actually very rich, so smaller pots next time I think, but the overall flavour combinations worked beautifully, and I think I impressed the critics. :)

Secret Pizza Business

Saturday, June 20, 2009

peanut butter pizza
“Mummy go away, we are doing something secret!!”
The mini food critics were making pizzas and had decided to make an extra special pizza for mum.

Amidst lots of giggling and whispering , I was banished to the bedroom to read a book while they put the top-secret pizza together. (Considering I had done the actual hard work of dough kneading, I was quite happy to put my feet up).

Ta-daa! Mini critic senior fell about laughing, while mini-critic junior handed me the plate. It was a Peanut Butter pizza with two cheeses (parmesan and mozzarella), semi_dried tomatoes, and basil!

You should have seen the look of surprise on their faces when I actually ate it (if Kinsey Milhone can do it, then so can I). And surprisingly, it didn’t taste too weird, I suppose because the peanut butter is so salty anyway. The only “odd” note was from the semi-dried tomatoes, but there wasn’t too much of that.

MC senior and junior are now plotting their next secret pizza. I await with trepidation as I heard the words “anchovy” and “jam” in the same sentence…..

Slice or pie? (The lime curd slice attempt)

Thursday, June 18, 2009

lime meringue pie

Hmmm, I had leftover lime curd and candied lime peel (see previous post as to why ☺). Since I wasn’t sure how long I could keep lime/lemon curd for, I was keen to use it up as soon as possible. I tried to find out what constituted a safe time-frame for refrigerating lime curd, but after lots of googling and researching, I came up with answers ranging from a fortnight to a month. The longest estimate put it at three months! I figured I was within the fortnight frame, but to be extra safe, I decided to make sure the lime curd was cooked.

When I ended up with two egg whites from another recipe, the decision was clear! I was going to attempt a lime curd slice. Fortuitously, I also turned up a small container of frozen lemon curd (about a month in the freezer). Perfect!

Now I had to decide on the base…I ended up making a sweet shortcrust pastry (200g plain flour to 100g butter, and 1 egg) using the “rubbing-in” method. I could have made it in the food processor but I was too lazy to clean it afterwards!

(The lime curd layer sprinkled with candied lime peel)

Lime curd slice

1 quantity shortcrust pastry OR your preferred slice base.
Half cup lime/lemon curd (or a mix of the two!)
Candied lime peel (optional)
2 egg whites
pinch of cream of tartar
Half cup caster sugar

Preheat oven to 175˚ C. Line base of baking pan with baking paper. Gently roll out pastry and flatten into the base of pan. Bake blind till golden (about 5-7 minutes). Remove from oven and cool slightly (5 mins). Reduce oven temperature to 150˚C. Spread lime/lemon curd over base, sprinkle with chopped candied peel and put back into oven for approximately 5 more minutes or until cooked to your liking.

Remove from oven and reduce oven temperature to 130˚C. Whip egg whites with pinch of cream of tartar until soft peaks form. Add caster sugar in batches, and whip until glossy and stiff. Spread over slice base and put back into oven and bake for about 20 minutes, watching closely to make sure it doesn’t burn.

Remove and let cool before attempting to remove from pan. When cool, cut into slices with serrated knife.

The verdict?
It tasted too much like lemon meringue pie to be called a slice. So once I got over the fact I’d actually made bite-sized pie pieces instead of slice, I was very happy with it.

Next time, I’ll definitely try a different base.

Winners are grinners (Trio of cupcakes)

Saturday, June 6, 2009

What an exciting end to the week. The other half had an office bake-off to raise funds for charity, so guess who was roped in to enter on his behalf? (He tried to convince me that it was all in the interest of helping me add content to test with skewer.)

Feeling inspired (the brief did say flex your baking muscles), I decided on three different types of cupcakes. A coconut lime flvour, a white choc raspberry combo and a chocolate orange combination. Here's how it went:

Coconut cupcakes with lime curd filling and coconut cream cheese icing

coconut lime cupcakes (The cupcake on the left is iced with the coconut frosting and the one on the right with orange fluffy frosting - see below)

I tried two different bases for this cupcake. A genoise flavoured with coconut and a pound cake with coconut. The pound cake base had a better overall taste and texture and was more "robust". The basic recipe comes from Rose Beranbaum's Perfect Pound Cake, I reduced the ingredients by a third and added coconut:

Coconut Pound Cake:
2 Tbsp Milk (for a more intense coconut flavour, you could probably use coconut milk)
2 large eggs (room temp)
1 tsp vanilla essence
80 g sifted cake flour
20 g toasted dessicated coconut (toasting gives a better flavour)
100g caster sugar
3/4 level teaspoon baking powder
120 g softened butter

Preheat oven to 350˚C.

Lightly combine milk, eggs and vanilla. I usually do this in a jug and just whisk lightly with a fork.

Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl (to stop the flour from flying about). Mix on low speed for about 30 seconds so that the ingredients are mixed thoroughly. The timings are based on my basic electric hand-beaters.

Add the butter and half the egg mixture into the dry ingredients. Mix on low speed until the dry ingredients have come together. I then increase the speed to high and beat for a minute or so. The mix will start to get "fluffy"

Then I add the remaining egg mix and beat well to combine. Use a spatula to scrape the sides of the bowl if necessary.

Spoon/pipe batter into prepared cupcake cases and bake for about 15 - 20 minutes or until golden and wooden toothpick inserted into centre of cakes come out clean. (I usually go by smell. You can smell the toasty coconuty cakey goodness when it's cooked just right).

Cool on wire rack. When cold, fill with lime curd and ice with coconut cream cheese frosting. I made the lime curd from scratch, recipes abound (plus my fingers are getting tired, so I won't put it up here but if you would like to know what recipe I used, send me an email and I'll let you know. :).

Ditto the cream cheese frosting, I used a basic cream cheese frosting recipe from the Women's Weekly Cupcakes book and added 2 tbsp coconut cream (not milk), plus enough extra icing sugar to firm it up. To top it all off, some candied lime peel. (See how to make candied orange peel below, and substitute lime peel for orange)

White chocolate mudcake with raspberries and raspberry ripple cream cheese frosting

white chocolate raspberry cupcakes
The white choc mudcake recipe came from the Women's Weekly Cupcake book. I popped a frozen raspberry in the middle of each cupcake ( I should probably have tossed the raspberry in a little flour first because some of them sank making crater like depressions but I covered them up with icing.

For the raspberry ripple fosting, I made the cream cheese frosting from the WW Cupcakes book. For the "ripple", I defrosted a cup of frozen raspberries, added enough caster sugar to taste, smushed it up and pressed through a sieve. I then cooked it over low heat to thicken, and when it didn't look thick enough, I added almost a teaspoon of cornflour made into a slurry with a little water. The resulting puree had an almost jam-like consistency. You could probably just use sieved raspberry jam but the flavour is vastly different. I then added a tablespoon of the cream cheese frosting to the cooled raspberry mixture to blend.

Then, resting the piping bag in a glass, I spooned the raspberry part and the cream cheese part into the "left" and "right" hand side of the same bag, they will both automaticaly fall towards the middle. I did find my raspberry portion a bit too "runny", and I will definitely have to try this again and see if I can firm up the icing without losing flavour. I think I just need to add some icing sugar to the end mix. I used a star nozzle for piping, but it would probably look good with a round tip as well.

Chocolate mudcake with orange filling and chocolate ganache frosting

chocolate orange cupcake
Again, the cake recipe came from the WW Cupcakes book. I made candied orange peel by simmering blanched strips of orange peel (white pith removed) in a simple syrup. (Simple syrup is made by using 1 part sugar to 1 part water. Bring water to boil, stir in sugar and simmer till sugar is dissolved.). The peel is done when it looks translucent. Watch the sugar syrup very carefully as it burns too easily and hot sugar hurts! Dry the peel on baking paper.

To make the orange filling, I saved the syrup left over from making the orange peel. The syrup was infused with a gorgeous orange flavour and just enough bitterness to work in an american frosting/fluffy frosting.

Orange flavoured fluffy frosting
Leftover syrup from candied orange peel. I added 4 tablespoons of sugar and enough water to make it up to 1 cup.
2 egg whites
pinch of cream of tartar

Beat egg whites in a clean bowl with the cream of tartar until soft peaks form.
Simmer syrup without stirring until soft ball stage. Wash down sides of pan with wet pastry brush if any sugar crystals form.

Carefully pour hot syrup in thin stream into the egg whites while beating continuously. Pour onto side of bowl so the syrup doesn't hit the beaters. Keep beating until frosting is cool (feel the sides of the bowl) - roughly 5 minutes.

Using a piping bag fitted with a round nozzle, pipe filling into the chocolate mudcakes. Alternatively, cut out middle of cupcake, spoon filling in and pop cake back on.

(The cupcakes filled with the fluffy frosting)

Ice with chocolate ganache frosting - a recipe I found on The Cupcake Blog. You could also pour on a pure ganache but I prefer the texture of the ganache frosting (a cross between the pure ganache and buttercream icing).
Top with candied orange peel.

And, drum roll please... hubby's team won! They entered as a team and had some other baked goods including brownies and cheesecakes. The judge tasted the lime-coconut cupcake and I think the choc-orange one. His quote? "This team won on taste".(Man of few words he is).