Thursday, June 24, 2010

Lemon Cupcakes with Cheesecake Frosting

I did, after all, proceed to some cupcakes the other day and I am glad I did because there is no chance in hell that I would turn the oven on today or in the foreseeable future. I am very pleased with how properly cupcake-like they have turned out, as I went as far as plonking an extra large cherry on top of each one of them. They are light and exquisite and another very successful experiment.

You'll need:

225g caster sugar
170g flour
2 lemons, juice and grated rind
1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of salt
2 eggs
1 tablespoon of vanilla extract
100ml of skimmed milk
110g unsalted butter (for the cakes)
110g soft cream cheese
200ml double cream
450g sieved icing sugar

a 12-hole muffin tin and 12 paper cases

You'll do them like so:

1- Pre-heat the oven to 180C and prepare your muffin tin with the paper cases. Melt the butter and then remove from the heat and set aside.

2- Whisk the caster sugar with the eggs for five minutes or so, then add the juice of the lemons, the grated rind and the melted butter. Give it a quick (and slow) whisk.

3- Measure the flour, salt and baking powder into a bowl and add to the egg mixture you've whisked in 2 above. Whisk it well, then add the skimmed milk and vanilla extract. Whisk away until everything is combined and looks just a tad too wet and sloppy. As I always say, don't stress, they will bake just fine.

4- Divide this mixture in the 12 paper cases. You've got enough to fill them by 3/4 or so. Now stick the tin in the oven and bake for 20 minutes.

5- Get the cupcakes out after 20 minutes and use a cake tester, just to make sure they are well cooked inside.

7- Leave them in the tin to cool for 10 minutes, then transfer them to a wire rack for one hour. As they cool, get the cream cheese for the icing out of the fridge, so that it comes to room temperature while you do something else.

8- When you're ready, and when the cakes are cool, prepare the icing. Add the sieved icing sugar to the cream cheese, then pour the double cream and whisk it all by hand. Make sure you allow no lumps; they will form as you whisk but they are very easy to obliterate by flicking your whisk and working the mixture for a little while.

9- Prepare your sac à poche with an icing tip of your choice, fill it with the frosting and work from the outside in, as I always do. Place cherries on top if you must and then take outside for a nice pic! Store low in the fridge.

Monday, June 21, 2010


I spent last week in Nottingham, cataloguing thousands of books, editing poetry and existing on a healthy combination of coffee, Maltesers and bready things. Then I returned home on Friday evening to enjoy a weekend of chips, ice-cream, fizzy drinks and Pringles.

Today I’ve limited myself to non-fat yogurt and a salad because, boy, do I need to rein in. Considering that the working day exhausted itself by 12.30, when Portugal began its lambasting of North Korea and now I am catching up with Roger being beaten up on Centre Court (what the fuck happened while I was watching the football?!), I now need to stay focused and forget about the two tubs of ice-cream at the bottom of the freezer, something I could really do with around about now.

The weather is marvellous, the garden is tidy and I have a moutain of things to catch up on and a number of emails that need replying to. Yet, all I want to do is to zone out and forget that I’ve been awake since five. I don’t think I could have had a longer and less productive day if I had tried, but, finally, the summer solstice is here, which means that from tomorrow days will very slowly shorten themselves. By the time my birthday comes around, I will be able to sleep again.

Rick requested a tray of cupcakes earlier today, but I am not sure I can be asked to faff in the kitchen, especially considering that I cleaned it right down to the floor this morning. On second thoughts though, if I do make them, I can take a few snaps and share my new recipe on here, lemon cupcakes with cheesecake topping. For the time being though, I need to keep an eye on Roger hanging by a thread.

Monday, June 7, 2010

August in October

At 2.30 pm the heavens opened and stayed that way for almost two hours. I was sitting on my bed, writing, but felt rather distracted by the persistant humming of the rain. See this?

That’s my deckchair with about two pounds of water in it. Now the window is open and that delicious smell of wet grass and soil is wafting through the house.

June started last week and it was cold, still and miserable. It looked a bit like October minus the red leaves and the bonfire smells. Then it turned crazy blue and delicious, like a freak version of our August, and I spent nights sleeping on top of my duvet, because 23C degrees in my bedroom qualifies as warm. By the time I had decided to wear a silk dress to Eva’s baptism, it all returned to a Mancunian normality of low-level clouds and, if not rain, at least the promise of it.

Today has been a painful day, as days often are when I wake up and my back isn’t quite ok and my arm, following my shoulder injury, isn’t quite ok either. I don’t think I’ve ever taken my mobility for granted, but I must admit that, dipping into and out of, acute painful phases due to my discs and, more recently, my shoulder, has made me very short-fused and angry with my body.

Yesterday I didn’t mean to take funny little steps, almost stooped as a big weight was pressing on my shoulders, but the truth is, I had no choice. Today I tried to do as much work as possible, and God only knows how much I need to be present in this sense, but it was extremely hard going. Funny how painkillers are supposed to help you ‘get on with things’ except they stone you into a light-headed stupor. Sometimes I wish I could access my spine by pulling down a zipper on my back, and then I would be able to slide out what remains of my poorly discs to be replaced with fresh, soft ones. Yes, imagine that, it would be like a vertical CD player, minus the tunes.
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