Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Tunis Cupcakes

Sometimes you have an idea that you really really want to carry out, but you know the idea must wait until it is just the right time. So you keep it tucked away, never forgetting it for a moment and every once in a while you take it back out to examine it and decide if now is the time. Finally, after maybe three years of waiting, last weekend was the right time for these cupcakes and I couldn't be more pleased about them.
Tunis Cupcake. Mini versions of McVities classic Tunis Cake - a Madeira cake alternative to Christmas cake.
Have you ever heard of a Tunis cake? A lot of people haven't which I think is a shame because really they are divine. Vintage Tunis cakes are a non-fruit cake alternative to traditional Christmas cake. I believe McVities used to make them at Christmas time though I've no idea why they stopped. To me a Tunis cake seems like the perfect choice to go alongside the super indulgence of fruit packed, alcohol soaked, spiced laden Christmas cake shrouded in marzipan and sugar paste. The simplistic Madeira cake base topped with chocolate icing and topped with marzipan fruits (if you wish) is the ideal cake to turn to in times when you want to calm down over the festive period and enjoy something a little plainer. In between handfuls of Quality Street.
Tunis Cupcake. Mini versions of McVities classic Tunis Cake - a Madeira cake alternative to Christmas cake.
Tunis cakes are supposed to baked as one big cake, which I was very tempted to do. Then I thought, well seeing as I never follow the original recipe anyway, I might as well bake them as fun and cute cupcakes. It will give me a chance to make a start on the 230 cupcake cases I bought at the BBC Good Food Bakes and Cakes Show and make it easier to transport them to uni for sharing. The beautiful marzipan fruits I bought from M&S were just the right size to fit on top. I was also feeling quite lazy and thought I'd try out an all in one method for the Madeira sponge to save all that creaming butter and sugar to produce the lightest of cakes. I'm pleased to present the evidence of the idea working perfectly but if you prefer, my favourite Madeira cake recipe is more traditional and just as gorgeous. 
Tunis Cupcake. Mini versions of McVities classic Tunis Cake - a Madeira cake alternative to Christmas cake.
Even with my, ahem, meddlesome adaptations (I blame the scientist in me) these cupcakes were perfect. When the cake tin lid was lifted in the office there were sounds of 'oooo' and 'ahhhh' and 'so pretty!' each time. The all in one method makes the bake time super quick and gives a wonderful airy height to such a little cake. Each cupcake is soft and tender, smacks of buttery flavour and the moist, silky smooth crumb which tells of the use of ground almonds. A hint of freshness from lemon zest makes these lightly sweet treats not too heavy to enjoy post celebration meal while richness of flavour is maintained and rounded off by a thick layer of ganache (Terrys dark chocolate orange is ideal) and the classy adornment of a marzipan fruit. The arisocracy of Christmas cupcakes.
Tunis Cupcake. Mini versions of McVities classic Tunis Cake - a Madeira cake alternative to Christmas cake.
Now for the sad part, which I've been avoiding writing. The time has come for me to take a step back from my blog. The workload is building for my final year of uni and I want to give it my all so I can achieve that first. Blogging takes a long time and as much as I love it, I don't want it to become a pressure and so a chore. I've been there with other hobbies and now they are ruined for me. I'm not giving up, simply vastly reducing the frequency of my post and in the meantime continuing to bake like crazy purely to relax so when the blog starts back up in earnest, I have a million and one ideas to share with you. When I made this decision I spent a day moping over it and now I'm nearly in tears again telling you all this. I've loved every minute of this up to yet, appreciated every single share and comment and will look forward to the day when I can be hammering excitedly at my keyboard at the same frequency as before. Would you do me the hugest of favours and follow me in some way so I can keep you up to date with what I can and when I', coming back full time? There is bloglovin, Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook, Google+ or sign up for email updates. The choice is yours. I love you all. And thank you.

Tunis Cupcakes
Makes 12+ cupcakes depending on case size
Buttery madeira cupcakes topped with a layer of dark chocolate ganache and a charming marzipan fruit. The perfect alternative to a heavy Christmas fruit cake. Inspired by the McVities Tunis Cake.









Ingredients
 For the cupcakes:
  • 175g caster sugar
  • 175g very soft butter or buttery margarine
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • Zest of one lemon, finely grated
  • 150g plain flour
  • 75g ground almonds
  • 2 tsp baking powder
To finish: 
  • 125g dark chocolate, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • Marzipan fruits
Instructions
1. Set the oven to 180 C/160 C fan and line a 12 cup muffin tray with cupcake cases.  
2. Place all the cake ingredients into a bowl, apart from the baking powder and mix together with an electric mixer until just smooth. Sprinkle over the baking powder and mix again to evenly distribute. (if you think you'll forget it this way, just add with the other ingredients instead. It will still work fine.)
3. Divide the mixture between the cupcake cases and bake in the preheated oven for about 25 minutes untill well risen, golden and a cake tester inserted into the centre of the cakes comes out clean. Carefully remove the cakes from the tin and leave to cool on a wire rack.
4. For the ganache icing, place the chocolate and milk in a bowl set over a pan of inch deep simmering water, making sure the base of the bowl doesn't touch the water. Stire frequently until melted and smooth - it looks horrible at first but then comes together beautifully. Remove from the heat and allow to cool, stirring every so often so it doesn't set.
5. To finish, slice any domed tops off the cupcakes so they are level then spoon on a layer of ganache. Smooth out so it reaches the edge of the cupcake to meet the paper case. Before the ganache sets, add a marzipan fruit to decorate.


I'm pleased to be able to offer these Tunis cupcakes to CookBlogShare, run by Lucy from Supergolden Bakes before I cut back on blogging temporarily. Also, to Helen's Bake of the Week at Casa Costello. Thanks for having me each time.

19 comments:

  1. Good luck with the degree! I don't blame you; final year was super streessful for me. I had five exams (worth half my final year) over about a week, and just after my birthday. It was an emotional rollercoaster to say the least! These cupcakes look great, and I love the cases!

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    1. Thanks Janine! I want to achieve the best on both fronts and the only way I can see to do that in the circumstances is to focus on one, then the other. My poor blog will hopefully be more forgiving if I slow it down for a while.

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  2. Lovely cupcakes Laura! All the best for your final year. I have no doubt you will do extremely well..... If you get to that final exam and your mind goes blank, just throw them a cake recipe..... it will be sure to impress! You will be missed from your blog for sure, but you absolutely need to give this your all. You'll be back before you know it, mortar board on head and degree in hand! Good Luck!!

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    1. Thanks Kate! And thank you for understanding. It was a horrible decision to make but I know it was a necessary one. The odd post will trickle in every so often because I doubt I can stay away for good but that will be it for a while.

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  3. i love almond flavor. these look great!

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  4. Lovely Laura! I'd much rather have these than traditional Christmas cakes (without the marzipan though)

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    1. Ah, are you to a marzipan fan? I very nearly decorated them with chocolate box chocolates to ramp up the chocolate factor but decided I wanted to go more traditional in the end.

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  5. Laura, thank you for all the reading (and eating) pleasure you've given me with your blog. Totally understand your need to pull back a bit - I'm in the same boat. But don't leave us completely, will you?! Thanks too for this recipe, I am on the hunt for school fete baking ideas and these will be perfect! Best of luck, Lucy x

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    1. Thank you ever so much Lucy =) I don't think I could leave for good. It's too much fun and I've met some wonderful people and bloggers, albeit virtually, through this blog, including yourself. If you get to make them for the school fete I hope they raise lots of money!

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  6. I can't believe you waited three years to make this! I've not heard of a Tunis cake before and I do wonder why. Good luck with your final year. It's been such a pleasure reading your blog and meeting you in person. I will definitely keep an eye out for your posts - blogging is only a small part of life and life must go on. I've learnt not to feel too guilty for neglecting my blog as there are times in your life when other things take priority. Plus it's much more fun when it's not a chore! Ros x

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    1. Thank you loads Ros =) it was lovely to meet you too and I'll look forward to the day when I can take up my blog again in earnest and in a more relaxed way without exams and revision and research constantly on my head.

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  7. Never heard of a Tunis Cake before – completely new to me! And they look lovely. Sorry to hear you are stepping down (temporarily) from blogging but I can completely sympathise. It is all-consuming and sometimes other areas of your life suffer as a result (like, ahem, exercise or actually doing paid work). But don't give it up altogether – just do it when it is fun. Loved having your recipes on #CookBlogShare

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    1. Thank you for putting all the effort in that you do for CookBlogShare. I've loved entering each time =) and yes, exercise is boring at the best of times, but then baking something which requires more exercise and ends up resulting in less being done because of blogging/eating it etc glad you understand =)

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  8. I've never heard of this cake before, thank you for introducing me to it. I love your cupcake cases and the fruits make it look very festive. Thanks for linking up to Sweet and Savoury Sunday, stop by and link up again. Have a great day!! Laura@Baking in Pyjamas

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  9. Oh, so sorry to hear that you'll have to be stepping away briefly . . . but I completely understand. I did the same thing when I was in culinary school in Toronto. I knew that if I tried to keep up with the blogging as well as coursework I would be so crunched for time that I would end up not enjoying either of them.
    But does this mean no Biscuit Barrel Challenge for a whole year! I always loved having that excuse to indulge in a batch of cookies : (
    Anyway, best of luck with your final year!

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    1. Thank you Alexandra! I won't be able to keep away completely - I know I'll be popping back from time to time when I get chance. Sadly it does mean no Biscuit Barrel for a few months but hey, if you enjoy indulging in cookies that much then feel free to use me as an excuse! You never know, you might come up with a few recipes you can enter straight into the Biscuit Barrel when it is up and running again =)

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  10. Thanks you very much for sharing these links. Will definitely check this out.. bakery conway ar

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