Tag Archives: Sour cream

Apple & pecan streusel cake

There’s something about seeing boats and the sea that always soothes me, whether the sea is calm or stormy, and if I ever feel a bit down and just need to get outside, I tend to seek out a view of the ocean.  This was easy enough in St Andrews, where there was only a squat church and some rather high cliffs that separated the end of my street and the sea.  I was spoilt – there were plenty stunning sea views around town, and most of them no more than a 5 minute walk from my flat, if that.  Here in Auckland, I’m not quite as lucky, but the Viaduct harbour is a 15 minute walk from my flat, and full of beautiful yachts, so I can’t complain too much.  This weekend I happened to be near the harbour as the sun was setting, so I headed over for a wander around (incidentally, there are restaurants and bars around the harbour, so there are always people around and it feels quite safe to hang around even in the evenings).

I hadn’t realised that I’d been feeling quite so down until I got to the harbour and watched the sun set over the gorgeous yachts.  Feeling more at peace (and having satisfied my Instagram addiction for the day), I headed home and baked, just to reinforce my improved mood.  I find the process of creating something scrumptious out of butter, flour, sugar, eggs and a few added extras really therapeutic (well, when it works… which isn’t always the case).  The only problem with baking to cheer myself up is that, whilst I do have a sweet tooth, there’s no way I can eat an entire batch of cupcakes or a whole cake all by myself before they go stale (except that Greek yoghurt and honey cake, which provided me with breakfast for several days, thanks to the syrup that kept it moist and flavourful).  Luckily the issue is easily solved by bringing surplus baked goods into the lab, and they get polished off rather quickly.

My post-harbour baking choice was an apple and pecan streusel cake, a fantastic autumnal combination made with the last of the season’s apples (actually, I think the season might have just ended here, so I guess we’re now getting the stragglers that were hanging out in storage).  I love pecans, but sadly they tend to be a little expensive, so I hoard them whenever they’re on sale (which is how I happened to have 325g of pecans lying around).  The cake itself is moist thanks to the apples, with a bit of crunch running through it due to the pecans, and topped off more pecans in the form of a crunchy pecan and brown sugar streusel topping (I never said it was a healthy cake).  I really think it’s the topping that makes this cake so special.  Some of the topping fell off the cake in transport (although more of it stayed intact than I was expecting), and once all the cake was gone, fingers were surreptitiously dipping into the cake tin to pick up remaining bits of topping.  The tin was exceptionally clean by the time we were done…

Apple & pecan streusel cake

Makes about 25 squares
Adapted from Bubby’s Brunch Cookbook

This cake makes a wonderful afternoon snack, accompanied by a cup of tea or coffee, and is delicious served both warm or cold.  It would also work very well with walnuts instead of pecans (the original recipe actually uses walnuts).  The cake will keep for a few days in an airtight container.

Ingredients

For the streusel topping:
150g pecans
110g light brown sugar
½ tsp cinnamon
Pinch of salt
15g unsalted butter

For the cake:
100g caster sugar
100g light brown sugar
312g all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
½ tsp cinnamon
Pinch of salt
175g pecans
2 large apples
225g unsalted butter
4 medium eggs
250ml (230g) sour cream
1 tbsp vanilla extract

Directions

1.  Line a 22 x 30 cm baking tin with baking paper (or if you don’t have such a large tin, use a 19 x 25 cm baking tin and a 9 x 20 cm loaf tin).  Preheat the oven to 175°C.

2.  Prepare the streusel topping.  Roughly chop the pecans and mix them together in a medium mixing bowl with the sugar, cinnamon and salt.  Rub the butter into the mixture with your fingertips until crumbly.  Set aside.

3.  In a small bowl, combine the two sugars for the cake.  In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, cinnamon and salt.  Set both aside.  Roughly chop the pecans and dice the apple into 1cm pieces.  Set aside.

4.  Using an electric mixer at medium speed, cream the butter in a large bowl for 2-3 mins until pale and fluffy.  Add the sugar gradually, and mix until fully incorporated.  Then beat in the eggs one by one, making sure to beat well between each addition.  Mix in the sour cream and vanilla (don’t worry if it looks like the mixture has curdled, this will be fixed in the next step).

5.  Add the flour mixture and mix until just incorporated, but with no visible flour.  Fold in the apples and pecans.

6.  Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking tin(s), and try to spread it out more or less evenly (I found that the batter wasn’t very spreadable, but just do the best you can, and make sure to push it into the corners).  Evenly sprinkle the topping over the cake.

7.  Bake for about 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean.  Allow the cake to cool in the tin for 10 mins before either cutting into squares to serve or allowing to cool fully on a wire rack.

Enjoy!

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Manly moustachioed Movember cupcakes

As you may know, last month was Breast Cancer Awareness Month – a disease that I feel that most people (in the developed world) are now aware of (though whether they do anything about it is another matter entirely).  Whilst it is, of course, important to raise awareness of breast cancer, there are plenty of other cancers that are hardly spoken of, but really should be.  Have you heard of Movember?  If so, marvellous.  If not, then it’s a campaign that revolves around men’s health and aims to raise awareness of prostate and testicular cancers in particular (which are the two most common male-specific cancers in the UK), but other cancers and health issues, too.  I feel that this is an excellent cause, especially since men seem to be notorious for not going to see the doctor when they probably should (based on the men in my family), so the more awareness the better.

Aside from being an important cause, what I also really like about the Movember awareness campaign is they’ve made it fun and different.  The idea is that men who want to take part in raising awareness grow a moustache for the month of November (Moustache, November, Movember.  See what they did there?) and get sponsored to do so in order to raise money which goes towards men’s health charities (I think the charities are country-specific).  It’s fun, it’s different, it’s interactive (sort of).  Excellent.  Now, for obvious reasons, I haven’t grown a moustache for Movember (that would be a newsworthy feat indeed…  And rather worrying), but I’ve gone for the next best thing…  Manly cupcakes with moustaches!  Obviously (because the photos totally hadn’t given that away already).

Now I realise that “manly cupcakes” are a bit of an oxymoron, since cupcakes are supposed to be all cute and everything.  When I first came up with this idea, I wasn’t really sure how I was going to make the cupcakes manly, short of adding bacon to them (which I have actually seen recipes for).  Bacon was out, so what other ingredients could I use?  Beer.  Beer is manly (clearly there’s no stereotyping going on here whatsoever…).  Guinness is very manly.  And I know that you can bake with it because I’ve eaten chocolate Guinness cake before and it was tasty, so chocolate Guinness cupcakes were clearly the answer, adorned with chocolate moustaches for Movember (because clearly that makes them so much manlier).  Sorted.  They turned out rather delicious, if I do say so myself.  They’re wonderfully moist and although you’d expect the combination of chocolate and Guinness to be heavy, they’re surprisingly light.  They were even given a Manly Seal of Approval by Craig (though considering that the last baked goods I gave him were pink Rose Martini macarons, these were highly likely to be deemed manly in comparison…).  So here we go, manly moustachioed cupcakes for Movember!

Chocolate Guinness cupcakes

Makes 24 cupcakes
Cakes adapted from My Baking Addiction
Icing adapted from Home Bake

Don’t be put off trying these if you don’t like the taste of Guinness, because it’s a subtle flavour that blends perfectly with the chocolate rather than coming through outright and overwhelming the cupcake – trust me, because I really don’t like Guinness as a drink, but I love these!  The chocolate moustaches are a fun decoration, but have a slight tendency to droop a little if the cupcakes are left out somewhere warm, so it’s best to add them at the last minute before serving, or to keep these cupcakes in a cool (but not cold) place.  If you don’t want to make chocolate moustaches, you could just use chocolate sprinkles or a dusting of cocoa powder to finish them off.

Ingredients

For the cakes:
330g all-purpose flour
300g caster sugar
65g cocoa powder (at least 70%)
1 ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
375 ml of Guinness (or other stout)
120 ml milk
120 ml organic rapeseed oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 large eggs
150g sour cream
100g dark chocolate chips (optional)

For the cream cheese icing:
50g white chocolate
200g cream cheese, softened
100g un-salted butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla extract
450g icing sugar

For the chocolate moustaches:
A few squares dark chocolate (at least 70%)

Directions

To make the cakes:
1.  Pre-heat the oven to 175°C.  Line two muffins tins with 24 cupcake liners, or set out 24 silicone muffin moulds on a baking sheet.

2.  Into a large bowl, sift the flour, sugar, cocoa powder and bicarbonate of soda, and mix them together.

3.  In a separate large bowl, whisk together the Guinness, milk, oil and extract (using a hand whisk, not an electric one).  Gently whisk in the eggs, one by one, followed by the sour cream (it might start of lumpy, but it will smoothen out, I promise).  Mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients gradually by adding a little at a time (I started off whisking then switched to a wooden spoon when the mixture thickened a little).  Stir in the chocolate chips (optional).

4.  Spoon the mixture into the liners or moulds, taking care not to over-fill them (the mixture will be quite wet).  If you added chocolate chips, most of them will have promptly sunk to the bottom, so bear this in mind and try to scoop some into each liner or mould.

5.  Bake for 25 mins, until the cupcakes have risen and are set in the middle, but still soft.  Allow to cool in the tins before turning out and icing.

For the icing:
6.  Whilst the cakes cool down, prepare the icing.  Melt the white chocolate in a small heat-proof bowl over a pan of simmering water (make sure the water doesn’t touch the bottom of the bowl).  Remove from the heat and allow to cool down to nearly room temperature.

7.  In a large bowl, whisk the cream cheese and butter together using an electric hand whisk.  Once smooth, beat in the white chocolate and vanilla extract.  Mix in the icing sugar a little at a time (unless you’d like a humungous icing sugar explosion), until the icing is fluffy and smooth.

8.  Spoon the cream cheese icing into a piping bag with a large round tip and pipe icing swirls over the tops of the completely cooled cupcakes.

To make the chocolate moustaches:
9.  Line a baking tray or tin with some baking paper.  Melt a few squares of chocolate in a small heat-proof bowl over a pan of simmering water.  Remove from the heat as soon as the chocolate is smooth, and allow to cool a little.  Spoon the chocolate into a piping bag fitted with a small round tip and pipe out the moustache shapes (if the chocolate is still too hot, you’ll feel it through the piping bag – please don’t burn yourself!).  Allow to harden before carefully peeling off from the baking paper and placing on top of the cupcakes.

Enjoy!

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