Baking adventures with a tiny Asian wannabe pastry chef/physicist

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Number 1 - A Very Red Birthday. Iced Two Ways!

So without further ado, here's my first blog post! I'm nervous writing this as I haven't done anything that requires writing for nearly 3 years (Maths and Physics are hardly English-heavy school subjects). It feels like my readers are metaphorical small children and I will have to try very hard to constantly be of interest to them, hahaha.

So first: a small introduction! I'm Hadia, a 19 year old British student nearing the end of her gap year. I will go to King's College to start my degree in Physics in September. After this, I intend to apply for Le Cordon Bleu to pursue my lifelong dream of being a pastry chef. I am an enthusiastic amateur cook and recipe writer and anyone who knows me will tell you: my life is food. Reading, watching, writing, making and most importantly eating. I started this blog as a response to some very kind individuals who have told me they want to try out my recipes. Please notes that all handy hints and tips will be in red for your convenience (:

The very first recipe was a gift for my good friend Marium - a box of red velvet 19th birthday cupcakes. The recipe is adapted from I usually use the cream cheese frosting from the Hummingbird Bakery cookbook. Although this is wonderfully easy to work with and pipe and looks great, it tastes altogether too sweet for my liking. I decided to try out the icing in this recipe due to the addition of sour cream, which could offset the sweetness. I also altered the recipe to make more-or-less 24 cupcakes (according to the yield given on the website), however I only got 16 out of the mix.

The recipe, with my alterations, is as follows:

Red Velvet Cupcakes (Makes 16)


  • 240g flour
  • 35g cocoa powder (I use Cadbury Bourneville)
  • 3/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • Generous pinch salt
  • 175g unsalted butter (when available, I always use French butter. My work in the product development kitchen of a muffin factory taught me that this is truly the best quality and well worth using!)
  • 250g sugar (the original recipe called for more sugar. But I find that American recipes often use to much! As a guide set an absolute limit at around 10g of sugar per cupcake)
  • 3 eggs
  • 175ml sour cream
  • 90ml semi-skimmed milk
  • Capful vanilla extract (I measure my vanilla in capfuls for convenience. 1 capful is approx 1 tsp)
  • 2 tsp red food colour paste

  • Prepare your cupcake tins by lining them with paper liners. I went for adorable red button ones, to match the theme c: . If you're scared of the cupcakes overflowing during baking, a handy tip is to brush or spray the outer perimeter of the tray with oil to prevent sticking.
Button Button Button
  • Sift together flour, bicarb and cocoa in a medium bowl. I don't usually bother sifting unless there are "lumpy" inclusions like cocoa or icing sugar. A quick mix with a fork suffices most times (:
Red Food Colour Paste - new fave thing!
My beloved weighing scales - they were my aunt's in the 80s! :D
Cut butter into small cubes and microwave to soften.
  • Beat butter, sugar and vanilla with the paddle attachment on an electric mixer, on a medium-high speed for at least 5 minutes (to ensure maximum fluffiness. Aim to get this mix at least two shades lighter). In general, all flavourings like zest, extracts and oils should be added in this stage cos the beating makes them permeate better into the mix. If you can, replace vanilla extract with vanilla bean paste.
  • While the mixture is creaming, mix together sour cream, milk and food colour paste.

Dat colour... Yum..?
Butter and sugar beaten to fluffy whiteness

  • Remove bowl from stand and mix in room temperature eggs, one at a time, by hand. This is the best method to prevent curdling. I recommend the use of a rubber spatula! Then, mix in your ugly red liquid. At this stage, pre-heat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius. I don't think there's a need to preheat at the beginning of a recipe, it's a bit of a waste of energy to leave your oven on and empty for so long.
  • Dump all the dry ingredients in with the wet ones and gradually but quickly fold in. (here is a great video of folding technique:
  • Spoon the mix into prepared paper cases. I find that a standard ice-cream scoop with a release mechanism is the perfect tool for this!

    Finished mix and my shining beacon of batter distribution
    Pre-baked redness

  • Bake 15-20 minutes. If you lightly press a cupcake in the centre and it springs back, it's done!
Baked and ready to go!
Icing and Decorating

The icing I had placed all my tiny hopes and dreams in was honestly, a disappointment. The sour cream didn't really balance the sweetness (frankly it turned out to be an unnecessary addition!) and the consistency wasn't dissimilar to flat white icing which is fine but meant I couldn't use my favourite icing nozzles with this one. Upon seeing the icing I decided to flat ice the cakes and use fun sugarpaste decorations, whipped cream and sprinkles to jazz them up. 

If you were to use the AllRecipes icing, I would recommend folding in 250 ml of softly whipped cream to lighten the flavour and improve the consistency. Otherwise, the Hummingbird cream cheese frosting recipe ( will do a better job.

I flat-iced the cakes (tip: don't let your knife touch the edges for a clean finish! Just ease dollops of icing from the centre outwards in even circles.) then topped with sugarpaste letters made by kneading a little red food colour paste into white sugarpaste, rolling out and cutting letters using play-dough cutters. A toothpick is a useful tool to measure small quantities of paste. Icing sugar can be used to stop letters sticking to the work surface.
Not my favourite.

Flat iced babies
In the process! Knead well for even colour distribution.
A bench scraper makes lifting letters out easy; leave to dry on greaseproof paper.
Like so!
Finished, with a candle for good measure. (:
The second decorating method used little whipped cream stars and M&Ms
So ends my first post! Hope you enjoyed, and happy baking! Any comments or suggestions would be greatly appreciated :D

Love always,


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