Saturday, 17 September 2011

Smoky choc cherry cupcakes

Ruth Clemens recently posted a recipe for smoky choc cherry cupcakes that she’d created for last year’s Great British Bake Off. The recipe uses sweet smoked paprika. I love smoked cheese and I’m sure if I weren’t vegetarian I’d love smoked meat too. Something about smoked sweet paprika – both the challenge of finding it in the first place and the promise of an interesting cupcake – was irresistible.

I didn’t realise how hard it would be to find normal-sounding ingredients but Newcastle city centre gave me a tough time. I drew a blank on black cherry jam but managed to find some red cherry conserve in M&S. That’s more or less the same, isn’t it? I bought a tin of black cherries and found out that the syrup is a surprisingly nice drink. I also found out that if your blender makes a terrible noise when blitzing the cherries, it means you’ve NOT bought pitted cherries.

The cupcakes turned out just as Ruth promised: moist and chocolatey with a hint of smokiness. The swirls of dark chocolate ganache mixed with cherry jam set off the cake brilliantly.

To decorate the cupcakes I wanted to try a new way of making sugar butterflies. Many moons ago, a lecturer commented a propos of nothing “If you want students to remember something, tell them in an aside”.

He was right. I’ve no idea what the lecture was about, probably how lush Homer was or summat, but I remember the aside. Recently, I had some classes with Alan Dunn and as an aside he mentioned that a paper cutter can be used with florist paste to create some very delicate cake decorations. I hurried off to Hobbycraft and bought this Martha Stewart butterfly paper cutter.

Using it with sugar is tricky work – the florist paste needs to be very thinly rolled and allowed to dry a little before it is slotted into the cutter. I even dusted the inside of cutter with cornflour.

I painted the butterflies with edible gold dust, rendering them even more delicate and difficult to handle. An easier option is to attach edible gold leaf to the florist paste before cutting. It's a good idea to attach yourself to a millionaire before attempting this, as gold leaf is eye-wateringly expensive.

Lucy is here this weekend to do the Great North Run half marathon. She’ll need the calories so she can have the lion’s share of the cupcakes. Going for gold, bairn!
Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee. Run like a bastard.

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