Cocktail Cupcake: Pina Colada

 Happy Friday everyone – I thought a little indulgence is just what this dull Friday needs – roll on the weekend! 

Cocktail Cupcake: Pina Colada
Cocktail Cupcake: Pina Colada

Topic: Cupcake, Alcoholic, Cocktail, Hens, Bachelorette, Baking, Party

If I am honest I would say that this is a coconut flavoured cupcake, where instead of using coconut essence I have used Malibu, but I’ve been taught to never let the truth get in the way of a good story, so instead I tell people that these are the ultimate in cocktail goodness.

The result from these cupcakes is so delicious, it feels almost like cheating, because they are so simple and quick to make. But again, I tell people it takes me hours in the kitchen, making sure I get the exact mix perfect for each individual cake. Some people will believe anything.

Cocktail Cupcake: Pina Colada
Cocktail Cupcake: Pina Colada

Ingredients

Batter

  • 55g unsalted butter
  • 140g sugar
  • 120ml coconut milk (later add the rest of the can to a soup – yummy!)
  • 2 eggs
  • 140g plain flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 can pineapple rings drained and chopped

Icing

  • 110g unsalted butter
  • 110g cream cheese
  • 450g icing sugar
  • 2 tbsp Malibu

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 180C/Gas4. Line baking tin with paper cases
  2. In a large mixer cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.
  3. Mix cocnut milk and eggs together. Add to butter & sugar
  4. Sift in flour and baking powder. Mix well
  5. Add pineapple. Mix again
  6. Pour mixture into paper cases. Bake for 20 min
  7. For the icing: in a large mixer, beat the butter and cream cheese until creamy. The longer you beat it, the whiter it becomes.
  8. Mix in icing sugar and Malibu
  9. Spread over cupcakes & decorate

As you can see, these ones went straight to a Hen Party where they went down a storm teamed with a glass of champers!

Cocktail Cupcake: Pina Colada
Cocktail Cupcake: Pina Colada

Hen Party Cupcake Decoration

Hen Party Cupcake Decoration
Hen Party Cupcake Decoration

Topic: cupcakes, decoration, hen, bachelorette, party

I recently volunteered to provide cupcakes for a hen party. Now, it would have been possible to show up with a few butterfly buns, as my baking ability is not internationally renowned and the expectations were not high. But it was the hen party of my future sister-in-law and I thought it would be nice to put in a little effort and see if I could make something special.

Making the cupcakes was no problem. I cracked the spine on my favourite cookbook for alcoholic cupcakes and with a few modifications created Southern Comfort & Coke, Pina Colada, Margarita and White Maria cupcakes.

It can be sometimes tricky to get 40 women to eat cupcakes, especially if they are thinking of having to squeeze into their frock for the wedding which was only a few weeks away. I have found that the more appetising and interesting the cupcakes look, the more chance that they will be eaten. To help me with this I recruited Jean from Pretty Tasty Bakes to give me a tutorial on cupcake decoration.

The first thing Jean did was put a cupcake case in front of me. {Well, that’s a lie, the first thing she did was come into the house, unpack a suitcase worth of equipment and have a cuppa before getting started. But the first thing she did right after that was to put the cupcake case before me} so that I would keep scale in mind. There is no point making something with lots of detail that people either can’t see or that won’t fit on the top of the cupcake. Scale is very important.

I had trawled through Pinterest and picked out a few designs that I liked and saved them to a board. Jean reviewed this so that we were both on the same page. We started with the simplest design: black and pink hen party regulars.

 

Cocktail Cupcake: Pina Colada
Cocktail Cupcake: Pina Colada

Required

  • Cutting/chopping board on which to work
  • Rolling pin
  • Circular cookie cutter
  • Craft knife
  • Gem mould if available
  • Letter stamp impressions
  • Non-toxic shimmer dust

Method

  1. To make the black base: Take a blob of black icing, tease until warm and flexible, and roll it smooth, on a cutting board to protect your table, with a rolling pin. Black icing is one of the few colours that should be bought premade, because of the amount of dye it takes to colour white icing to make it black, as opposed to grey (red is another one of these, it takes bottles to move it from being pink to being scarlet). Then take a circular cookie cutter about the size of the cupcake case you are using and cut out enough circles to place on top of each cupcake. Put these aside to dry and harden.
  2. To make the learner signs take a blob of white icing, tease and roll out. From this cut the white square for the L sign. Use a ruler or guide to ensure these are square. Place to one side to dry. Next take a blob of pink, tease and roll out. Use a craft knife to cut out the letter L (being careful of scale). Place to the side to dry.
  3. To make the rings, take a blob of white and roll between your hands to make a worm shape. Once the worm has started to take shape, put the roll on the board and using one finger only roll until a thin long snake is made. Using only one finger will help to keep the width of the snake consistent. Once the correct diameter has been reached, cut and make a circle from it. Place to one side to harden. To make the gem, Jean had a handy gem mould which we used. However, if you did not have this, using a craft knife, impress edges onto a small ball of white icing, until it has a cut diamond appearance. Dust with shimmer dust to give gleam. Place to one side to harden
  4. To make the flags, take a blob of pink icing, tease and roll. Use a craft knife to cut out the flag shape. Use letter stamps to impress message onto the icing. Use toothpick to decorate the edge of the flag with small dots. Dust with shimmer dust to give gleam.
  5. Once the cupcakes are ready to decorate, stack pieces on top of one another, holding in place with non-toxic baking glue.

Some little tips:

How to get lots of different colours without spending a fortune?

There is no need to buy lots of different coloured icing to get different colours, instead buy small bottles of food colouring and a large block of white icing. Add a very small, tiny, miniscule drop of colouring to a blob of white icing. Mix this in by pulling apart and resticking the icing together (as you would to warm up bluetack) until the colour is uniform. This will work for ever colour except dark ones such as red, black, purple, for those colours you will need to buy the pre-dyed icing.

What to do if the icing gets too sticky?

Add some icing sugar, this will dry up some of the moisture.

Leaving it to dry:

It is best to leave your decorations harden overnight, in a cool dark space if possible. I find the oven an excellent place to do this, plus it gives me the perfect excuse to order pizza!

Hen Party Cupcake Decoration
Hen Party Cupcake Decoration

Cocktail Cupcake: Southern Comfort and Coke

 

Cocktail Cupcake: Southern Comfort and Coke
Cocktail Cupcake: Southern Comfort and Coke

 

Topic: Cupcake, Alcoholic, Hens, Bachelorette, Baking, Party

 

Nothing says “I have come to party, but in a controlled, safety-switch-on sort of way” like an alcoholic cupcake, but what says “I may even loosen my hair bun and unbutton my shirt collar” is chocolate alcoholic cupcakes.

One of my favourite recipes is an adaption of the Cookie Girls Jack Daniels from her Eat Me book. Jack Daniels is Cookie Girl’s hubby’s (say that three times fast!) favourite tipple, unfortunately I had an “incident” with Jack back in my college days and I now can’t stand the taste of it, so instead I use Southern Comfort. I think the Southern Comfort adds a smoothness which the dark chocolate compliments very nicely. And there is a bit of coke thrown in so people don’t realise I’m an alcoholic.

Cocktail Cupcake: Southern Comfort and Coke
Cocktail Cupcake: Southern Comfort and Coke

Ingredients

Batter

  • 200g plain flour
  • 250g golden caster sugar
  • ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 egg
  • 100ml milk
  • 30g yogurt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 110g unsalted butter
  • 2 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 2 tbsp Coke (full fat, this is no time for Coke Zero, we need the sugar)

Icing

  • 110g icing sugar
  • 1 tbsp Coke
  • 3tbsp Southern Comfort
  • 5 tbsp of black food colouring
  • 100g dark chocolate

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 170/Gas 3 & line your 12 hole baking tray with paper cases
  2. Mix flour, sugar and bicarbonate in a bowl.
  3. In another bowl mix egg, milk, yogurt and vanilla.
  4. In a large pot melt the butter. Add the cocoa and Coke.
  5. Pour the butter mix into the flour mix and mix.
  6. Add the egg mix and mix.
  7. Pour into cupcake cases so they are 2/3 full, to allow space to rise
  8. Bake for 20-25 min
  9. Once the cupcakes are baked and cool, begin making the icing
  10. Sift the icing sugar and add the Coke, Southern Comfort and food colouring.
  11. Melt the chocolate and stir into the icing
  12. Working quickly before the icing solidifies, pour over cupcakes. Then decorate.

I was asked to bring some cupcakes to a sporting event recently, so I mixed these dark boozy cupcakes (for the grown-ups) in with a milk chocolate Nutella cupcakes (for the kids). They went down a treat. Although some of the kids were a little too partial to the Southern Comfort cupcakes – ones to watch in the future!

Cocktail Cupcake: Southern Comfort and Coke
Cocktail Cupcake: Southern Comfort and Coke

 

Cocktail Cupcake: White Maria

 

Cocktail Cupcakes: White Maria
Cocktail Cupcakes: White Maria

 

Topic: Cupcake, Alcoholic, Hens, Bachelorette, Baking, Party

 

Rolling into the Christmas Party season, with everyone praying for a White Christmas, I thought this little stunner might be a great addition to the festivities.

This is a variation on the White Russian, the famous cocktail which was named at the end of World War 1 after the anti-Bolshevik group,of the same name, so called because they stood against the ‘Reds’ which were the communists. The drink got its name because of its main ingredients Kahlua (for the White) and Vodka (for the Russians). However, vodka is one of those flavours that just doesn’t work well in cake, so this recipe does not call for any. Instead we have the creamy white coming from the white chocolate and sour cream, and the dark coffee flavouring of the Tia Maria, to give us the White Maria.

 

 

Cocktail Cupcakes: White Maria
Cocktail Cupcakes: White Maria

 

 

Ingredients

Batter

  • 110g unsalted butter
  • 110g caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 110g self-raising flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 6 tbsp Tia Maria

Icing

  • 55g white chocolate
  • 110ml sour cream
  • 3 tsp Tia Maria
  • 225g icing sugar

 

Cocktail Cupcake: White Maria
Cocktail Cupcake: White Maria

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 180C/Gas4 and line a baking tray with paper cases
  2. In a large mixer cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
  3. While still mixing add eggs one at a time.
  4. Sift in flour and baking powder slowly.
  5. Mix in Tia Maria
  6. Spoon into paper cases and bake for 20 min
  7. Leave to cool
  8. For the icing: melt the chocolate. Add the sour cream and Tia Maria
  9. Mix in icing sugar
  10. Allow to cool so that it gets tacky. Spread over cupcakes

Cocktail Cupcakes: Margarita

 

Cocktail Cupcakes: Margarita
Cocktail Cupcakes: Margarita

Topic: Cupcake, Alcoholic, Hens, Bachelorette, Baking, Party

 

 

“Can I have two shots of tequila, I’m baking.”

“You don’t need to make an excuse, if you want tequila at two in the afternoon you can have it.”

“No, you misunderstand. I would like two shots of tequila, which I will not drink, but instead put into this flask, so I can bring it home and bake with.”

The barman glanced at the three other punters in the place, who were sitting behind half empty pints watching the horse racing, to make sure he was not missing a joke of some sort here. They looked away from the telly in the corner to return his confused stare. He turned back to me.

“Tequila in a cake? That’s gonna be muck. What you want is brandy. Like at Christmas. I’ll get ya brandy.”

 

 

So before you even start these, let me tell you, there is no need to go out and buy an expensive bottle of tequila, but it might be quicker and raise less suspicion. By the time I left the bar, with two tequila shots safely in my pretty Cath Kidston flask, the barman had the feeling that I can only assume hardware owners have after selling rope, shovel and balaclava to known criminals who say they want to do a bit of gardening in the cold. He didn’t know what I was up to, but he was pretty sure it was not baking, and it probably wasn’t legal. I toyed with the idea of bringing him back one of these cupcakes to show that my intentions were pure, but I doubted if he would eat something he suspected had criminal intent.

 

 

The recipe I am using is an adaptation of Cookie Girl’s Margarita cupcakes. And by adaptation, I mean I’ve discovered a few short-cuts!

 

Cocktail Cupcakes: Margarita
Cocktail Cupcakes: Margarita

Ingredients

Batter

  • 110g unsalted butter
  • 110g sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 110g self-raising flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 3 tsp lemon essence

 

Filing

  • 85g butter
  • Juice & zest of 2 limes
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 large egg yokes
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 2 tbsp of tequila

OR (as I found out later) you can instead use

  • 1 jar of lemon curd
  • Juice of 2 limes
  • 2 tbsp of tequila

 

Icing

  • 110g unsalted butter
  • 110g cream cheese
  • 450g icing sugar
  • 1 lime – juice & grated zest
  • 1 tsp Triple Sec
  • Green food colouring

 

 

Method

  1. Preheat oven 180C/Gas 4 and line baking tin with paper cases
  2. In a large mixer, cream the butter and sugar until fluffy.
  3. Add eggs, sift in flour, baking powder and lemon essence. Mix until smooth.
  4. Fill paper cases 2/3 full to allow rise.
  5. Bake in oven for 15-20 min
  6. Filling: take three or four large spoon of lemon curd and mix in lime juice and tequila to taste
  7. Once cupcakes are cooled, core and fill with filling
  8. Icing: in a large mixer mix butter and cream cheese. Add icing sugar and mix. Add lime juice, zest, Triple Sec and colouring. Mix well.
  9. Spread icing over cupcakes & decorate

 

Cocktail Cupcakes: Margarita
Cocktail Cupcakes: Margarita

 

 

Cookbook Review: Alcoholic Cupcakes from Cookie Girl’s Eat Me

Eat Me Cookbook

 

Topic: Cupcake, Alcoholic, Hens, Bachelorette, Baking, Party

 

Nothing says I have come to party, but in a controlled safety-switch-on sort of way, like an alcoholic cupcake. They are perfect for hens/bachelorettes, birthdays, afternoon tea; events of any sort really, where there will be plenty of alcohol on hand but possibly not much soakage. These cupcakes are a way of slipping in a little safety net for those who can’t drink like a hobo at Christmas, but like to think that they can. They work well at the start of the festivities when people are sipping the classy wine, heels and hair intact, discussing political events in a sophisticated way. They are less effective if the flip-flops are on, makeup askew and the words ‘And Another Thing’ have been uttered more than once. At that stage, just start laying tarpaulin.

 

However, alcohol in food is a delicate balancing act (excluding jelly-shots which I categorise as solidified alcohol rather than a food product). Unlike a liquid which races through your mouth and is only on your palette for seconds, food is chewed and swirled around your mouth for a few minutes. So something that is delicious as a drink can be overpowering as a food no matter how much you like the flavour. If these cupcakes are to succeed you must remember one simple rule; food is not the medium through which to consume alcohol; if you want to get drunk I suggest stop eating and start drinking. Do not be tempted to add extra shots into recipes to get everyone drunk. The result tastes so disgusting it is inedible which makes the action self-defeating,

 

My favourite recipes are some I have modified from Cookie Girl’s Eat Me cookbook. For those that don’t know Cookie Girl is a lady otherwise known as Xanthe Milton. Ms Milton got into baking professionally while taking a break from acting. She began selling baked goods to West London office workers, before setting up a stall in the Portobello Market, and then going on to supply Selfridges nationwide.

 

In her Eat Me cookbook she has 4 alcoholic recipes – Jack Daniels, Kahula White Russian, Malibu Pina Colada and Margarita. Myself and the Cookie Girl have different tastes in alcohol, so rather than going out and buying an expensive bottle of liquor only to use a few tablespoons, I instead modified her recipes in order to use alcohol I did have in my house. The results work very well so long as you substitute similar flavours. So for instance, I don’t have Jack Daniels but I do like the occasional Southern Comfort and coke, so I exchanged shots of Jack for Sunny C. I don’t have Kahula, but I do have Tia Maria, this exchange works quiet well.

 

However, sometimes exchanges are not possible. Nothing tastes like tequila. It is unique. However, it would be a shame to have to fork out about €40 for a bottle only to use 2 tablespoons, so instead bring a flask down to your local pub and buy two shots for closer to €5. The barman might give you a funny look, and the bar flies might think that you are more pissed than they are, but really, if it means the success or failure of your cupcakes do you really care about their opinions?

 

Another tip is to be careful of the decoration that you propose to use. Most of Cookie Girl’s recipes rely on the action of both the cupcake and the icing together to make the flavour, so if you plan to use rolled icing or some other decoration, make sure you have a strategy to add it on top of the flavoured icing in the recipes. I find that little cocktail umbrellas are a great way to decorate these cupcakes, because nothing says sophisticated fun like a little umbrella.

 

However, if you have all the ingredients that she calls for, these are simple recipes that are easy to follow and have great results.

 

Turkeys for Christmas

turkey dinner

There is no denying that times are definitely hard when you are planning to put two of your pets in the oven for Christmas dinner. The recession changed many things about me, but when those two handfed lovelies hopped out of the boot of my car, trusting in me implicitly as their provider not to lead them astray, and followed me to the shed where they would be slaughtered, my heart hardened a little in a way that can never be undone. But let me back track a little and explain how we got to this point.

It was October, the allotment was on the wind down, the chickens were settled in and I was ripe for a new challenge. We were also tightening our belts and looking for ways to save a few shillings, when I was hit with a brainwave; what about raising turkeys for Christmas? We could buy two and give one to each of our parental homes as Christmas presents, the cost of turkeys as chicks being a fraction of the value of a fully grown hand-reared organic turkey.

John said No; it was coming into the winter months, when nobody wants to be out doors; turkeys die really easy and as he was in charge of all things deceased in our home, he was not opening the door to two more potentially dead things. No.

I decided to ignore him and arranged with my favourite organic farmer to come down and pick out two poults (I had googled the word for turkey chicks so as not to sound like a total novice).

Now I have to admit to you, in October, I was late to the rodeo. Most people get their poults in July to fed up for December, but in actual fact it was to our advantage that we got the birds older as they were much more robust than they would have been as very young chicks, and therefore their survival rate was much higher.

When I got to the farm the first thing I noticed was that these young turkeys were not small, at about seven weeks old these things were already about the size of a fat domesticated cat, and they were already bigger than our hens at home. However they did not know the power of their size and were some of the most timid farmyard animals.

Two were selected (the easiest to be caught), money changed hands (e8 a pop – total mates rates as they were half reared) and they were put in a box in the boot of my car, with a strict reminder to feed them organic feed. Sorted.

Meep. Meep. The cutest noise I heard every time the noise of the car engine subsided.

I got home, backed up the car boot to the side gate, took out the box (meep. meep. meep.) and put it in the backyard inside the chicken hut. It was already dark by the time I got home so I decided to leave them there until the morning.

The next morning awoken by squawking chickens, I went out to get the feed sorted, only to discover two baby turkeys huddling in the corner of the chicken hut while one pushy chicken (its mate was asleep upstairs) strutting in front of them clearly giving a detailed lecture about who was in charge and who was very much not. It was like watching fresh meat in a jail house.

I put down some chicken feed and took the turkeys out of the chicken hutch. I had always intended them to be fed separately; the chickens staying on their organic layers pellets and the turkeys getting some nice fattening organic turkey meal bought in Ballinahown, Offaly (we bought it as we were passing; it is certainly not the closest place to Dublin in which it is stocked). Turns out however that turkey meal must be nicer than layers pellets because that chicken went berserk at the idea that the fresh meat was getting better treatment, and got her mate out of bed to help with the protest. I gave them a little to shut them up – I know, soft touch – but it actually resulted in slightly yellower yokes, so silver lining.

The next thing to come was the sleeping arrangements. In my innocence I assumed, as the cold October nights were creeping in, that two chickens in a roost built for 6 would welcome the extra body heat two young turkeys would bring. Well not on your life. Those two aule boots sat on the roosting bar at the top of the ramp and pecked any turkey that tried to go up. Bii-atches.

My little darlings shivered at the end of the ramp, seven weeks old not knowing what to do (can you already see the dangerous level of attachment to this source-of-future-dinner creeping in?). So I put them in the shed for the night to keep warm. And gave them a tomato each as a treat, assuring them tomorrow would be better.

The next day I went down to Woodies to look for something that would improvise as a turkey roost – not wanting to invest in anything too substantial or expensive for three months – and came up with a small dog kennel. Not perfect, more expensive than I wanted it to be, but would suffice. In hindsight I actually think that dog kennel was one of our best investments. We locked the front door and access was through the removable roof. Each night John rounded up the turkeys (they quickly became too heavy for poor little me to lift, particularly when it was raining, because I am just a delicate l’ickle girl – poor John) and put them into their nice, safe and warm kennel, meaning they were not wasting that much energy heating themselves, which translated into more energy for growing.

Over the next couple of days another problem presented itself; what would we do if one died and the other lived – whose family would we give it to? Or what happened if one was substantially bigger than the other? Not willing to play favourites we got two leg rings; one red and one blue. The Clarkes were getting the red and the Gibboni (plural of Gibbons) the blue – no changes, no swops.

The next seven or eight weeks proceeded with a certain rhythm; the turkeys had free rein of the back garden (yes, they are dirty and poop everywhere they go, but it was winter, so it’s not like we were using the garden for anything anyway) while the mean chickens stayed confined to the chicken-hut. The turkeys soon found and roosted on the old motorbike parked up for the winter in a position it turns out was perfect to catch the mid-day sun. They happily sat together on that for hours like latter day Easy Riders. They grew and grew (while still making that incredibly cute meep noise, a little like roadrunner) until they were too heavy and big to be lifted into the kennel at night.

Then it came. The first week in December. A call from my favourite farmer, to see when I would be bringing them down for slaughter. Two weeks’ time I said, guiltily trying to put it off for as long as I could. I was really enjoying owning Butch and Sundance (that was not their names, they didn’t have names, because that would make them too hard to kill, you are told clearly not to name them, so the names we did not give them were Butch and Sundance. I know – soft touch.)

Some notes about slaughtering;

1. There are all sorts of how-to guides on the internet, there are all sorts of people who trot out nonsense like “just break the neck” “my granny showed me how to do it, I’ll teach you” etc etc. To be honest I find the whole idea really repulsive. It’s one thing to raise animals for meat, that is a fact of the life, but I firmly believe if you are going to do so, it is your duty to ensure not only does that animal have the best possible life, but also that the death is as quick, painless and humane as it is possible to make it. In my opinion the only way to achieve this is getting a professional to do the job. This is no time for rookie mistakes that inflict agony on a poor bird.

2. In addition to specialised training, the government state that you need an abattoir licence to lawfully kill animals on your land. Even Enda doesn’t think this is an area for DIY.

3. It is not ok to wuse-out of killing the turkeys once December arrives. Having fattened them since birth, they will soon become too heavy for their legs to bear their weight (think of horribly obese humans unable to leave their apartments without calling the fire brigade) and this becomes another form of cruelty. Before getting the birds, you need to have considered by whom and when they will be slaughtered (as this is what they are being raised for), you commit to an action plan at the start and so at d-day you man-up and follow through.

4. In addition to slaughtering the animal, I also asked for the innards to be removed, the bird be plucked and made oven ready as it’s a specialised skill, which at the moment, I was not ready to learn.. I am open-minded about a rookie getting involved in this point of the proceedings, as the bird is already dead, but I personally declined, mainly because I thought this bit would be really gross and I am still a city-girl at heart.

So there I sat in the farmer’s kitchen, chatting to the family, eating yummy homemade cake, having a great ole time, while outside two souls I had nurtured were ushered to the next world (guilt laying on my shoulders as a heavy burden). After really a short period of time the farmer returned with two things that more resembled dinner (thank god for mental compartmentalisation or I would have starved that Christmas), and the rare but so-satisfying nod of a job well done. I had a 16 and an 18 pounder – quite the result for a first timer. Feeling very pleased with myself I dropped them off to their new homes (aka kitchens) to be prepared for Christmas.

After Christmas we did a cost analysis on the whole project (showing we still had our leaving-cert accounting skills). The tangible cost (because no real value can be put on the darkening of my soul) was a total of about e40 for both; e16 for the turkeys, e20 for the feed, and a nominal cost of e4 for the use of the kennel which we were sure to use for other projects in the future.  The value of shop bought organic turkeys of equal weight; e160-200. Result: a total success that we would definitely repeat in the future. I may even learn to pluck.