Flicking through recipe books can be a little like reading glossy magazines. So often, everything looks beautiful on first glance. But if you're looking for something specific (ways to cook salmon, things to use up yogurt, something without any ingredients that will require a foray down to the supermarket on a wet night when I Have To Cook Now...), it's a little like Goldilocks and her porridge*. Or, on rare occasions, everything looks fabulously delectable, and then I end up paralysed by choice and lack of available time to do it all at once. A smarter penguin might realise that fussiness and indecisiveness are not comfortable bed-fellows.
Nigella Lawson recipe books cause me particular anguish. Everything is begging to be cooked. Everything has that air of deceptive simplicity that I can just tell will leave me looking forlornly at some pitiful creation, rather than knowingly licking a wooden spoon with the air of a cat who has successfully baked the canary into a pie (and made the puff pastry itself).
This is where the food blogs come in. Having looked with curious interest at Nigella's coca cola cake quite some time ago, I came across an interpretation over on Grab Your Fork. Emboldened by the combination of making the recipe into cupcakes, and the promising looking pictures, I decided it would be just the thing for a coke-and-yum-cha-loving friend.
The results were were rather mixed, although the verdict was that they were tasty. The cakes themselves were light and springy-textured, and they reminded a little of a home-made version of a packet cake, but not in a bad way. The Coke gave them a taste I'd not encountered in a cake before, but was a little more subtle than I'd expected, and contributed as much to the consistency as to the flavour. The icing was rich and smooth but for me, and the other penguin, a little too much (I think I need to give up on trying to like buttercream other than as a filling in all but very occasional circumstances).
This was how they were made (recipe adapted from Grab Your Fork)
250g plain flour
185g sugar (I used a mixture of caster sugar and soft brown sugar)
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 large (70g) egg
125g Greek yogurt (I used low fat, and it worked just fine)
1 tsp vanilla extract
125g butter (the usual butter / olive oil blend was used in my ones)
4 Tbsp cocoa powder
3/4 cup Coke
250g icing sugar
1-2 Tbsp Coke
1. Preheat oven to 180°C (160°C for a fan forced oven**)
2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the sieved flour, sugar and bicarbonate of soda
3. In another mixing bowl or jug, combine the egg, yogurt and vanilla extract
4. In a saucepan, heat the butter, cocoa powder and Coke over a low heat until melted, and allow to cool slightly
5. Combine the melted Coke mixture with the dry ingredients and mix, then add the yogurt mixture and stir well
6. Spoon the cake mixture into cupcake cases in a muffin tray, filling each case to around 3/4 full. A single batch of this recipe makes around 12 to 15 cupcakes (depending on the size of the cases, and how full you make them)***
7. Bake cupcakes until golden brown and springy when lightly poked. A sharp knife inserted into a cupcake should come out clean. This should (if you don't have a temperamental Smeg) take around 15-20 minutes.
8. Make the icing by beating the butter until light and fluffy (a mixer comes in handy here), and then mixing in the icing sugar. Gradually add the Coke until you are happy with the taste and consistency
9. Wait for the cupcakes to cool down. Don't do as I did here, and fall at the final hurdle by icing still-warm cupcakes, as your icing will slither off in a bid for freedom, or take on an unappealing melted consistency. While this can be redeemed slightly by refrigerating the cupcakes, it is nowhere near as good as being patient in the first place. Yet more reasons why buttercream is a fidget...
10. Did I mention letting the cupcakes cool down. Maybe finish off the leftover Coke while you wait. Or lick the mixing bowl. But wait.
11. Ice your cupcakes, then feel like a domestic goddess, and lick the wooden spoon with the satisfied smile of somebody with infinitely more patience than a penguin
Helen of Grab Your Fork suggested adding Wizz Fizz to the top of the finished cupcakes. While I didn't do this, I think it would add a little bit of bite that might be a good counterpoint to all that buttercream. Or it might just add to the sugar overload potential. But it did sound appealing!
Next time I'm beset with a quite uncharacteristic zen-like mood, I might give Nigella another try. I think she deserves more time and attention than a distracted multi-tasking penguin tends to offer, so will keep my fingers crossed for the next foray. Maybe there's still time to be a domestic deity. For now, it's more like a domestic kitchen-sprite, I think...
* Don't get me started on porridge - getting that right is a whole other post by itself. Ooh, maybe I need a porridge week. Hmm... I might enjoy that, but I suspect I might be in a minority of one. Not that self-indulgence normally holds me back, mind you...
** For a temperamental Smeg, if you're unfortunate enough to also have one, the temperature is almost irrelevant, as nothing will bake consistently or for the specified time. All you can do in this case is watch them in a hawk-like fashion through the oven window, turn them regularly, and hope.
*** If, like me, you decide it might be a good idea to make a double batch so that there are (a) enough to put aside the funnier-looking ones and (b) some (not-funny-looking-ones) for the other penguin, you will end up with enough cupcakes to feed a gluttonous army, or utterly swamp a small-to-middling kitchen. Just in case you think it's a good plan...