Musical Monday: Something Good Can Work

One more day to go until the movers come. List of jobs getting smaller, pile of miscellaneous things on kitchen bench getting bigger. Still time to listen to this song though – a KitchenMaid can’t dust and scrub and clean without some sort of soundtrack. What’s keeping you busy this Monday – and what are you listening to?

A lovely bunch of coconuts

Some things get lost in translation, especially in recipes. After a year in New Zealand it appears I have assimilated a little too much and am now causing a wee bit of confusion by referring to ‘coconut’ in recipes and expecting you to know what I’m talking about. So – a quick tutorial.

Desiccated coconut

The coconut referred to in the Best Ever Vegan Friendly Chocolate Cupcakes is supposed to be desiccated coconut (or ‘desecrated’ as an old flatmate once called it).

Long thread or shredded coconut

The coconut used in the super-decadent Raspberry Choc Nut Bars is what I call long thread coconut, but you may know it as shredded coconut. It’s just a longer, thinner version of ordinary desiccated coconut, kind of like its supermodel cousin, with better hair. Desiccated coconut is better in the cupcakes, but I think the long thread or shredded version works best when you need a bit more texture. Hope this helps. Happy baking!

Sweet sweet Friday: Vegan Cupcakes

I’ve been making lots of cupcakes this week – the Boy Wonder took some to work and I froze the rest for Erin the Amazing Babysitter. Erin came into our lives when I started making cupcakes for a local craft market and she became my unofficial tester. I try to have some on hand whenever she comes over, which seems especially important now that we’re leaving town. I asked her mother if we could take Erin with us and she said “No! You’re not taking your daughter and mine away from me!” Oh well. Maybe I can send them some cupcakes from our new kitchen.

Best Ever Vegan-Friendly Chocolate Cupcakes

Once upon a time I had a brief flirtation with veganism. It didn’t last (I didn’t miss meat or eggs, but a life without butter, yoghurt or ice cream? No thanks!) but I discovered lots of my favourite cake recipes were vegan-friendly anyway.
This is my go-to chocolate cupcake recipe. It’s dark, moist, quick to make and freezes brilliantly. The flavour improves the day after baking (if you can resist them for 24 hours).

2 1/4 cups flour
3/4 cup cocoa
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 cups caster sugar
3/4 cup coconut
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups cold coffee (or water)
3 Tbsp vinegar

Preheat the oven to 180C. Put cupcake liners in two 12-hole muffin tins.
Sift the flour, cocoa, baking soda and sugar into a large bowl, then stir in the coconut.
Mix the wet ingredients in a jug, then pour them into the dry. Mix well. Pour the mixture in the cake tin, or divide equally between the cupcake liners (I usually get around 22 cupcakes out of it).
Bake for about 20 minutes. Leave in the tin for five minutes, then turn out onto a rack to cool.
This can also be baked in a 23cm cake tin, for about 45 minutes.

Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to crack a decent vegan icing – butter is just TOO important! These are fine dusted with icing sugar, but most of the time I use the Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting recipe from The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook. It’s almost worth the price of the book by itself – a silky, voluptuous frosting that adds a very decadent touch. Just beat 75g very soft butter, 30g sifted cocoa and 200g icing sugar until very light and fluffy (easiest in a mixer or with an electric beater). Add 150g fridge-cold cream cheese and beat until even lighter and fluffier. Try not to eat it all before you get some on the cupcakes.
Have a sweet weekend, everyone!

Retail therapy

Our house is full of boxes and my head is full of decisions. Do we keep this? Is it too soon to pack that? The man from the charity shop has come and taken a load of stuff away and I’ve dutifully recycled dozens of glass jars that were waiting for preserves and little plastic containers that were breeding at the top of the pantry while they waited to hold things in the freezer.

In some ways I love moving. It’s a deadline-driven process, like my work, and it’s a great opportunity to cast off all the stuff we seem to accumulate that serves no real purpose. I try to do this while thinking of that William Morris quote – ‘Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful’ – sometimes that’s easier said than done.

Useful AND beautiful

But at the same time, there’s something about moving that compels me to acquire more stuff. Yesterday Rachel and I finally managed to achieve our year-long aim of trawling a couple of our favourite charity shops together. I gave myself a stern talking to before we left, but it wasn’t entirely successful. I had to bring this silver-plated cake tray home because I couldn’t bear the thought that I might never get to this particular shop again. It will be just the thing with some little fancy cakes on, don’t you think?

I was quite pleased with my little treasure (and how strongly I had resisted a set of tiny martini glasses that Rachel thought were for vodka-loving small children) but then I saw the gorgeous finds that Debby at Cooking Up A Storm In A Teacup has found. And then I remembered that there’s a charity shop at the end of my new street. Such fun awaits!

Are you addicted to charity shops? What have you found recently? Go on, make me jealous!

A Zombie Ate My Cupcake

We get plenty of scary things in the post (our last gas bill was like something from a horror film), but nothing as frightening as this…

Run, don’t walk, it’s A Zombie Ate My Cupcake by Lily Vanilli!

Now, neither sugarcraft or zombies are really my cup of tea. In fact, I’d rather eat cupcakes that look like these ones at LouLovesFood, and I dream of making ones that look as good as these ones at Adventures in Cake, but there’s no denying that Lily’s little cakes have something about them.
Ms Vanilli (real name Lily Jones) is a graphic artist-turned-cupcake-queen from east London (where else?), who has a suitably chic back story. She started from humble beginnings, selling her wares in a little-visited market off Brick Lane, and is now the darling of the cupcake eating set. She makes all sorts of fancy cakes for the rich and famous and even stars in a Levi’s ad. The press release with the book calls her a ‘cake sculptor’, which is a pretty cool title.

But what I like about this book is that beneath the (fake) blood and gore lie some really good cake recipes, like Honey and Almond and Pecan, Nutmeg and Cinnamon, along with more usual suspects like Chocolate, Red Velvet and Vanilla. I’m not about to attempt ‘Zombie Hands’ or ‘Sweeney Todd’s Surprise’ just yet, but Hallowe’en is just a month away…