Carrot and orange cupcakes

Well, I think my first baking post is well overdue. A couple of Sundays ago I took part in a local initiative in Walthamstow, the St James Street Jumble Trail, where residents of the St James Street area were encouraged to set up shop in front of their homes to sell old wears, food and drink, books, records and more, to get to know neighbours and find out what people think could be done to improve the area.

To go alongside the clothes, shoes and bags I had on offer, I baked these cupcakes to tempt any jumble sale customers with a sweet tooth, and sure enough, they all went! They went down a treat with the kids; one very smartly dressed little boy was my best customer, buying three cakes.

carrot-orange-cupcales

I’ve made these cakes a few times now using this BBC Good Food recipe. The light, carrot sponge is complimented delightfully by the lavish vanilla cream cheese icing. The sponge is quite quick and easy to make. But don’t be fooled into thinking that’s the hard part over and done with; preparing the icing is just as time consuming, so make sure you leave yourself a good hour or so for this bake (and a bit longer for the washing up!)

Ingredients

  • 175g light muscovado sugar
  • 200g self-raising flour
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 tsp mixed spice
  • zest of 1 orange (the skin), grated
  • 2 eggs
  • 150ml sunflower oil
  • 200g carrots, grated

For the icing

  • 100g butter, softened
  • 300g soft cheese (I used a ‘light’ version)
  • 100g icing sugar, sifted
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • orange and yellow sprinkles to decorate

Preparation time (including the icing): 40 minutes
Cooking time: 20 minutes
Makes 12 cupcakes

Method

1. Heat the oven to 180C/gas mark 4 and line two 6-hole muffin trays with cupcake cases.
2. In a large bowl, add the sugar, flour, bicarbonate of soda, mixed spice and orange zest. Mix together so they are combined well.
3. Crack the eggs into a small jug and whisk. Stir in the oil.
4. Stir the carrot into the dry mixture then add the oil and eggs and stir thoroughly.
5. Pour the cake mixture into each of the cupcake cases evenly and then pop them in the oven. After 20 minutes, take one of the trays out of the oven and poke a knife through the middle of one of the cakes. If the knife comes out clean, without any cake mixture, they’re ready.
6. Take them out of the oven and leave to cool on a wire rack if you have one. If not, pop them on a chopping board to cool (I usually take them into another room as my kitchen gets very hot).

To make the icing

7. Pop the butter in to a small mixing bowl and beat until really soft. Add the cream cheese, icing sugar and vanilla essence and mix in together. Using an electric whisk on a medium setting, beat the mixture together until thick and light. Leave in the fridge until you’re ready to ice the cakes.
8. When the cakes have cooled down completely, apply the icing to each cupcake generously using a small spatula. Use an anti-clockwise motion, starting from the outside to get a neat finish.
9. Lastly, pour a handful of sprinkles into your hand and carefully decorate each cake with a dozen or so.

As with most cakes, these are delicious washed down with a mug of English breakfast tea.

Apple and blackberry crumble

On the last day of August, as we start to say goodbye to summer and welcome autumn’s charm, our thoughts and stomachs long for roast dinners and hearty puddings. A box of blackberries

I took the opportunity to go foraging for blackberries this weekend as the weather has been lovely and mild. Even though a lot of blackberry bushes are past their prime at this time of year, my boyfriend and I went out to Walthamstow Marshes with our eagle eyes and were in luck as we picked a generous punnet’s worth.

To make the most of our efforts, we had a simple and scrumptious apple and blackberry crumble to follow a Sunday roast. The only ingredient I needed to buy that we didn’t already have at home was cooking apples which I got from my favourite grocers, the International Supermarket, on Walthamstow High Street.

My mum’s crumble recipe, which, as a child she allowed me to have without the fruit as I thought it was too sour (I think she empathised with my sweet tooth) worked a treat.

Ingredients

  • 120g plain flour
  • 60g butter, softened
  • 40g sugar for the fruit
  • 2 large cooking apples
  • 300g blackberries
  • 1 tbsp sugar to sprinkle on top

Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 30 minutes
Serves 4

Method

1. Turn the oven on to gas mark 5. Half-fill a medium saucepan with water and bring it to the boil.

2. Meanwhile, wash and peel the apples, and cut them into cubes (somewhere between 5 and 10cm). When the water starts to bubble, plop your chopped apples into the pan and cook on a medium to high heat for seven minutes. Use a knife to prod one of the apple cubes, and if their texture is soft, turn off the heat, drain them in a colander and set them aside.

3. Here comes the fun part! Tip the flour and butter into a medium sized bowl. Using your fingertips, blend the butter into the flour until it reaches the consistency of breadcrumbs.

4. Spread the apples out into a small to medium sized baking dish. Pour the blackberries on top and mix them in with the apples so they’re evenly distributed. Sprinkle the sugar over the fruit, making sure it gets in all the nooks and crannies. Scatter the crumble mixture to cover the fruit. Lastly, sprinkle the second helping of sugar on top.

5. Put the crumble in the oven for 20 minutes, or until it starts to look golden brown on top. When it’s ready, get it out of the oven and leave to cool for 10 minutes.

6. Serve with warm custard or some cream. Et voila.

A dish filled with apple and blackberry crumble.