Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Chocolate Whisky Cupcakes with Ganache Topping

I had planned to begin this by telling you all how I was sat here writing while eating a slice of freshly baked brown bread made from a recipe by James Morton - one of the guys from this years Great British Bake Off, but the thing is that I've already eaten it. It was far too nice to wait. (Have a look here if you want.) I was a bit sceptical about it as I have not had much luck with bread recipes other than my mum's white one and a wholemeal tin loaf by Paul Hollywood but the whole lack of kneading thing was attractive so I gave it a go. Plus I got to use my pink dough scraper. It proved (seriously, no joke intended there) to be a very productive morning and the bread tasted lovely and was pretty light despite not having to kill my arms for ten minutes in the kneading process. I love time saving techniques.

For the health conscious among you there is no butter in this bread recipe but I more than made up for it with the amount I allowed to melt onto the beautifully warm crust. Aplogoies to my dad but I really couldn't save it for you this time. However, I do wonder if you could add other ingredients to the dough. Say, medium oatmeal, or maybe even crushed Weetabix for a different texture. Or.. NO, STOP MESSING WITH THE RECIPE!!! I really need to learn when to leave a recipe alone. Apart from this one. I really do think I have finally found the right recipe to make the perfect chocolate whisky cake. I have been looking for the right one for over a year now and eventually came to wonder if using my mum's amazing chocolate cake recipe with extra liquid would work and thankfully it most certainly does. This is a cake that is made every Christmas, holiday, birthday, visit from my brothers, return from university after thinking I'd screwed up the all important exam in my favourite module...well you get the idea. Plus, if it gets a chance to keep, it gets richer and more moist with age.

As I've said, I wasn't sure if the recipe would take the extra liquid but at the same time it was really important that I got a good whisky flavour. I added about 3 tbsp and let Dad be by second opinion. His response was "a gnat's b*****k more" so with a little trepidation I added another tbsp and warned Mum that if it was too strong it was not my fault. Surprisingly the flavour in the cake after baking wasn't strong at all but I apparently didn't need any more in because the flavour in the ganache definitely compensated. The cakes turned out to be really light so I don't see any harm in trying to add another couple of tbsp next time but hey, that's just me! The ganache was a little too sloppy so I'm altering the quantities a bit for the recipe here but oh my, the original made the most gorgeous acompaniment to strawberries. I'm pretty gutted that the last lot of strawberries I bought weren't all that brilliant probably signifying the last lot until next year now (I stand firm on this one - I will not buy anything other than British strawberries - it seems wrong somehow). I've always thought ganache was pretty special but then I sampled the batch I made for the cakes (naturally) and was taken a whole new level, with only a single tbsp of whisky. I'd even say it is better than Nutella, and that really is saying something.

Makes 16 muffins or one 8" cake (I used hald quantities to experiment with)

10oz caster sugar
6oz soft margarine e.g. I Can't Believe it's not Butter
3 large eggs
1 rounded tbsp instant coffee dissolved in 1 tbsp water
6oz vanilla yoghurt e.g. Activia creamy
8oz self raising flour
1tsp baking powder
1tsp bicarbonate of soda
2.5oz cocoa powder
4tbsp (maybe a couple more) whisky, whichever brand you like

300g Bournville
200ml double cream
2tbsp whisky
1 heaped tbsp apricot glaze heated and mixed with a splash of water so it is good and runny

1. Pre-heat oven to 180 C for the big cake or 190 C for the muffins. Grease, flour and base line two 8" sandwich tins with baking paper or place 16 muffin cases in muffin trays. I used normal ones from Asda but as you can see some of them lurched over the sides so it's a good job I had greased and floured around the holes first. Those pretty tulip shaped cases might be better to stop this because I don't think the cakes should be made any smaller.

2. Place all the cake ingredients (preferably have everything at room temperature first and don't forget to sift the dry ones) into a big bowl  and mix with an electric mixer on a low speed until combined, then stop, scrape down the sides with a spatula and continue to mix on high until the mixture is lighter in colour. This will take a couple of minutes maybe.

3. Divide the mixture evenly between the two sandwich tins or the muffin cases - about 75g each if using the latter. Yes, I really do weigh things to this extent! Bake in the oven for 25 mins ish (big cake) or 20 mins ish (muffins) then cool on a wire rack for a few minutes before either turning out the big cakes onto the rack or taking the muffins out of the tray to cool completely.

4. Chop up the chocolate and place in a bowl then heat the cream in a small saucepan until the first bubble appears. Pour the cream onto the chocolate, cover the bowl and leave for five or ten minutes, then give it a really good stir until the chocolate is all melted and mixed into the cream. Add the whisky and mix again until well combined and the ganache is smooth. Here is a really good point to have a taste then when you are sure it is okay, cover the bowl again and pop into the fridge until the ganache is much thicker but still soft enough to pipe. Make sure the cakes are fully cool before you start finishing and decorating.

5. If using the big cakes, sandwich together with a buttercream of your choice - believe it or not, one made with soft margarine is perfectly adequate here. Brush the tinned down glaze all over the big cake or just on top of the muffins. Spread the ganache (I find a silicone spatula best plus an angled metal spatula for finishing off) over the top and sides of the big cake or fill a piping bag with large star nozzle and pipe a swirl of ganache onto each muffin. Please ignore the dodgy piping in the pictures. I have a severe lack of skills in that area!

Any leftover ganache is best eaten immediately. I wouldn't take the risk that someone else gets hold of it first if I were you.

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