‘B’ is for birthday, ‘C’ is for cake. And the eternal question, what kind of cake? and when exactly am I going to make it? Decorating after all takes about 4 times longer than you ever bargain for, all those grand ideas about tiers, shapes and different shades of icing, sadly stay as just that, ideas. But a birthday is a birthday, and in spite of being time poor I was feeling creatively rich, so all I had to do was marry the two! I’ll be honest I defaulted on this occasion to use a recipe that is a tried and tested favorite. An ‘Ottolenghi’ number but with an interesting and consequently novel twist, the very clever addition of hazelnuts. The only slight issue, it was a cupcake recipe, and I had dreamt of building something more glamorous.
I tend to shy away from cupcakes as every shop in London and indeed the country sells them, they are everywhere, and what’s more everyone, including the ‘blue’ ones nursery, makes them. What is more, I had intended to make that really ‘special’ cake, but good intentions in my life often do not turn into reality. To be fair I only had the green light to get ready for said ‘celebration lunch’ the day before. This ultimately left me little scope for a mass creation, unquestionably a relief for our kitchen, Mr.P, the ‘little people’ and indeed my sanity, and hence the default option ‘Hazelnut Cupcakes’. That was all fine until 6am dawned Thursday morning (yes, sadly that is when the ‘blue’ one starts his day and mine) and I was happily about to bake off the cupcakes only to discover -alas no cases! Aaahh – homemade it would have to be, really homemade in all aspects!
Back to those hazelnuts. The reason said cupcakes are different is they are made with roasted, ground hazelnuts. Roasting, intensifies their flavour by a magnitude of 10 or more, and subsequently makes the cake nutty and as light as a feather. The combination of this wickedly good nut flavor and feather like sponge, topped with a rich cream cheese butter icing is a heavenly marriage and believe me, smitten you will be. A few drops of the all important pink to make the cupcakes look like roses, a bit of raffia and ribbon and quite surprisingly the default option looked pretty presentable. Not bad given my lack of tools at 6am. Do give them a try, they really are very yummy and an unexpected change.
Hazelnut Cupcakes – from ‘Ottolenghi’ The Cookbook (slightly altered by myself)
45g peeled hazelnuts
150g of caster sugar
180g of plain flour
1 1/4 tsp of baking powder
1/3 tsp salt
150g of softened butter
2 free range eggs
150ml of soured cream (or use normal cream with 4 -6 drops of lemon juice)
Cream cheese, softened butter and icing sugar
1. Pre-heat the oven to 150c and put the hazelnuts on an oven tray and roast for 15 minutes. Remove and let cool. Now turn the oven up to 170c.
2. Whizz the nuts in a food processor with half of the sugar until completely fine. Now cream the rest of the sugar, butter and nuts together till light and airy.
3. Mix in the beaten eggs and now fold in the dry ingredients, followed by the sour cream.
4. Spoon 2 healthy teaspoons of the mix into your cupcake cases (shop bought or homemade), and bake in the oven for 20 -25 minutes.
5. Remove from the muffin tin when cooked and allow to cool before icing.
6. My icing recipe is very vague as I tend to make it up each time. Broadly speaking I beat equal quantities of butter and cream cheese together until completely smooth and then add in the icing sugar till I have a consistency that I am completely happy with! Not very helpful but it seems to work for me.