Monthly Archives: February 2012

Free guide to piping cupcakes

I stumbled upon this little beauty at I had seen some really pretty cupcakes that look like swirly roses at King’s Road market, now I know how to make them! I’d love to see anyone’s attempts at the petal decoration!

ccw piping cupcake guide pdf


Fairy Cakes

Following Kaeti’s fab advice, I bought a syringe icing set from good old Lakelands (only a plastic one, sorry Kaeti!). To try it out, I made a few simple fairy cakes and a batch of royal icing, and had some fun!

I’ve found that making fairy cakes using cup cake cases but in a steep sided muffin tin ensures that they stay nice and upright and don’t splurge over the sides! There’s definitely a knack to icing, and I think I may need some more practice and perhaps a good detailed book on how to do the different techniques.

At £7.79, it’s definitely a starter set, and this shows in the quality. However, it’s very easy to use and was quite effective on these little fairy cakes. The syringe set comes with seven different nozzles, including a “filler” nozzle for inserting jam into doughnuts etc, oh the possibilities! The barrel of the syringe is a little small, so when doing lots of cakes or a whole cake it might become annoying having to constantly refill.  All in all, I was pretty pleased with our afternoon of icing, all I need now is an excuse to make a proper iced sponge cake and get practising!

Tala Icing Bag Set Review

A very disappointing 2/10


So there I was in the Peter Jones bakery section, a small child in a sweet shop. I came away with, amongst other things, a Tala Icing Bag Set. I’ve got a massive icing bag with a couple of nozzles, but I thought it was about time to invest in some decorating equipment.

At £15, it’s a fairly cheap set, perfect for a somewhat beginner. It comes in quite a smart box (possibly cupcake sized?!) and contains 6 different nozzles, a piping bag, a cleaning brush, an icing comb (can anyone shed any light on what you’re supposed to do with one of these?!) and a “How to ice a cake” booklet.

Looks good?  Until the first nozzle I picked up and attached to the icing bag just fell straight off again. I tried another one, that seemed to hold in place fine. Two out of my six nozzles were too small at the base and so wouldn’t stay attached to the bag. Clearly this set is a case of mutton dressed up as lamb. It looks the part,  but it’s really very poor quality. The instructions booklet is really nothing to shout about either, it’s not specific to the set and lacks content. It claims it is a “step by step beginners guide to icing cakes and biscuits”, I’m a beginner and it wasn’t much use to me!

So in all, I liked the look of it (that’s where the two points come from), enough to take a sneaky peak in the shop and buy it, but because of the quality of the actual equipment I will be returning it. Any one got any good recommendations for a replacement?

Chocolate Muffins

These are so easy to make, you can’t really go wrong. However, considering this recipe was from a chocolate recipes book, I was a little disappointed with their chocolatiness! I think mine were a little over done, and lacking chocolatey depth.

So, to improve this recipe, I would add 50g of chocolate chips and double the amount of cocoa powder. I used some fancy muffin cases I had, I find these are great for doing muffins when you aren’t sure how well they’ll rise. Sometimes muffins go a bit mental when you first put them in the oven and rise right out of the cases and ooze everywhere, especially if you’ve overfilled the cases. Not exactly the perfect muffin top you were hoping for! These muffin cases are so tall that the only way is up for your muffins, you lose the muffin top but you can be sure they’ll all stay together.

I’ll give you my new improved recipe and I’d love to hear if anyone tries them out! Here we go: (Makes 12)

350g self raising flour
50g cocoa powder
200g light brown soft sugar or golden caster sugar
2 eggs
150ml sunflower oil
150ml milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
50g chocolate chips 
12 tsp nutella or other chocolate spread

Sieve the flour and cocoa powder into a large bowl. Stir in the sugar.

Beat the eggs, sunflower oil, milk and vanilla extract together in a jug or bowl with a fork. Pour the egg mixture into the dry ingredients and stir a few times, mix the chocolate chips through.

Fill the cases half full and add a teaspoon of nutella to each.

Top up with the rest of the mix and bake for 20 – 25 minutes until well risen and springy to the touch.

Vanilla Star Cupcakes

I’m going to start at the beginning: Vanilla Cupcakes.

Sometimes you just can’t beat them, and this time they’re a little bit special because they’re star shaped! I’ll take you through how I like to make them;

120g plain flour
140g caster sugar
1 ½ tsp baking powder
a pinch of salt
40g unsalted butter
120ml semi skimmed milk
1 egg
½ tsp vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 170°C, or 150°C for a fan oven. Get out all your ingredients, I find this helps me make sure I don’t forget anything!

If you’re like me, the butter will be straight out of the fridge and rock hard. Just chop it up into cubes and put in the microwave for half a minute to a minute. Put the flour, baking powder, caster sugar, salt and butter in a large bowl and beat with a hand held electric whisk, on a slow to medium speed, until you get a sandy consistency.

Slowly pour half the milk (60ml) down the side of the bowl and beat on a low speed until it’s just coming together. Beat the egg and vanilla extract with the remaining milk then pour this into the mixture and beat until it is just combined and the mixture is smooth, don’t overmix it.

Spoon the mixture (1 generous table spoon or an ice cream scoop full)  into the cases so they are two-thirds full. Bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes (22 is spot on for me!) until they are golden brown and spring back to the touch. It’s really important to get the cooking time just right as if they are undercooked they will fall apart in a gooey mess, and overcooked they become a bit dense. A skewer inserted should come out clean.

Leave the cupcakes to cool for a few minutes in the silicone cases before turning them out onto a wire rack to cool completely. The great thing about silicone is they should literally fall out of the cases, if they don’t, leave them to cool a little longer as you might break them where they still are stuck to the case.

The downside to these star cases is they come in packs of 6, and I only bought one. So I turned out my first six, filled them with the remaining mixture and popped them in the oven. This mixture doesn’t mind sitting around for a little while as there’s no air in it to fall. The second batch came out fine.

Next up, make the Vanilla frosting. I make mine with semi skimmed milk (because it’s what I have in the fridge) and vanilla bean paste;

Frosting Ingredients:
250g icing sugar
80g unsalted butter
25ml semi skimmed milk
½ tsp vanilla bean paste

Beat the icing sugar and butter together in a medium bowl with an electric mixer on a slow speed. Icing sugar has a tendency to go everywhere, so I put a tea towel over the top of the bowl to start with to contain the icing sugar cloud. 25ml is not a lot of milk, so I measure it in a spirit measurer. Combine the milk and the vanilla paste and slowly add to the icing sugar and butter. At this point, your electric whisk might start to struggle as the mix forms a ball, don’t worry just turn the whisk up high and it will start to soften and look more like frosting. Continue beating for 5 minutes or more until the frosting is beautifully white, light and fluffy, almost mousse-like in texture.

Time to ice your cupcakes! Don’t be shy with the frosting, put a large dollop in the middle of the cake and using a small knife drag down to the edges, adding more frosting if necessary. Then spread the frosting evenly over the top and swirl with the knife. I topped mine off with some edible gold stars.
*Kate’s Top Tip #1 – Don’t put your sieve in the sink!
When you make cupcakes with frosting, you’ll need your sieve twice. If you like to tidy up as you go and put it in the sink after you’ve made the cupcakes it will be damp for when you make your frosting and the icing sugar will just get stuck!
I’d love to hear your comments about this recipe. Try it out and let me know what you think!
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