Winter in London brings about waves of depression to the cheeriest people. The sun sets as early as 4pm, and the absence of light simply….deflates. I find that I bake a lot more during the coldest months. For me, baking is one the best ways to take away some of that stress and depression. Sinking my teeth into home-baked goodies make me a wee bit happier too. I also like to spread the love (or erm, crap, depending on how the baked goods turn out) by giving them to colleagues and friends, hopefully they like them as well (if you don’t, you must let me know before I inflict more suffering onto you….).
Darkness fell pretty early one day in November last year, and I was sitting in my office feeling depressed and lethargic from the long day spent in the lab. I thought, ‘That’s it! I have to do something!’. So off I went to Waterstone’s, a bookshop close to where I work, and I made a beeline for the cookery section. No surprise there, really, as I always find solace in cooking and baking. Several cookbooks were on sale, and it was a no-brainer when I decided to make The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook the latest addition to my growing family of recipe books. I have tried cupcakes from the bakery along Portobello Road, thanks to our lovely friends who would bring us some, and they are very, very good indeed. To this day, the cookbook has served me well.
I made the red velvet cupcakes on three occasions, once for my colleagues, once for M’s, and once for our own comfort stash; all three batches turned out well, no glitches, no nothing, just good, light, moist, chocolatey cupcakes with highly addictive cream cheese frosting.
I have to admit that I was a little scared when I saw how red the cupcakes turned out. But there was something very alluring about the way they looked, maybe it’s just me developing some kind of vampire tendencies for blood-red stuff. Anyhow, the deep red crumbs looked perfect and inviting next to the white cream cheese frosting.
Here’s the recipe from The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook:
60g unsalted butter, room temperature
150g caster sugar
10g cocoa powder
20ml red food colouring (preferably Dr Oetker red food colouring)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
150g plain flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 and 1/2 teaspoon white wine vinegar
1 quantity cream cheese frosting (see below)
12-hole cupcake tray lined with muffin paper cases
1. Preheat oven to 170 degrees Celsius.
2. Beat butter and sugar with electric mixer with paddle attachment or handheld electric whisk on medium speed till light and fluffy and well mixed.
3. On high speed, slowly add egg and beat until everything is well incorporated.
4. In a separate bowl, mix cocoa powder, vanilla extract and food colouring to make a thick dark paste. Add this to butter mixture and mix thoroughly until evenly combined. Turn the mixer down to slow speed and slowly pour in half the buttermilk. Beat until well mixed, add half the flour and beat until everything is well incorporated. repeat this process until all buttermilk and flour have been added. Turn mixer up to high speed and beat until you have smooth even mixture. On slow speed, add salt, bicarbonate of soda and vinegar. beat until well mixed, turn up speed and beat for couple more minutes.
5. Spoon mixture into paper cases until 2/3 full, bake in preheated oven for 20-25min or until sponge bounces back when touched. Skewer inserted in centre should come out clean. Leave cupcakes to cool slightly in tray before turning them out onto cooling rack to cool completely, then frost them with cream cheese frosting.
Cream cheese frosting
300g icing sugar, sifted
50g unsalted butter at room temperature
125g cream cheese, cold
1. Beat icing sugar and butter together on medium slow speed until mixture comes together and is well mixed.
2. Add cream cheese all at one go and beat till completely incorporated. Turn mixer up to medium high speed and beat until frosting is light and fluffy, for at least 5 minutes. Do not overbeat as it can become runny.
Note: I would advise adding the icing sugar in portions depending on how sweet you like your frosting. Do remember that the less sugar you add, the more runny the frosting will be, so it will get more difficult to pipe the frosting when you’re done. Also, it’s best to eat the cupcakes within two days of baking them, and do remember to store them at room temperature if you can (as long as the frosting doesn’t melt!), putting them in the fridge or leaving them lying around for too long dries them out.