On to the plate

Experimenting with flavours, colours and style of food served at our place


Apple Muffins–with lots of extras

Granny Smith Apples

Mr Fussy got growled at when he got up and started opening the curtains. This is my first time trying to get a good (by my standards) photo that’s got that moody dark look. No flash, just some clever (?) use of filtered light.

This post is about Apple muffins. Granny Smith apples, some sultanas, which I added at the last minute, cinnamon and walnuts. Lots of flavours and textures. And you know what? I’d pay for these. They were probably the best tasting muffins I’ve made, and certainly top those I’ve paid for in the past.

Just in case you think I wasted lots of time for one photo.

Shiney apples

Certainly taking photos of the apples showed up the bumps and bruises. Of course the apples might have toppled a couple of times as I moved them around, placed them in a pyramid and bumped the table. At least they didn’t complain.

Last night I was searching Google for an Apple Muffin recipe. I came across two recipes that I liked for different parts of them. And I thought how each would be improved if they just had a part of the other. So this is what I created.

I used this recipe from Martha Stewart for the muffin mixture, and this recipe from blogger Haniela for the apple mixture. And then I got all out of control and added a handful of sultanas, just because.

Apple Muffins


For the caramelised apples

  • 3 medium Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored, and diced
  • 5 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • A handful of sultanas if desired

For the muffin batter

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 scant teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup plain yoghurt, room temperature
  • 113gm butter, melted
  • Raw sugar for sprinkling over the prepared muffins


For the caramelised apples

  • Melt the butter in a fry pan over medium-low heat.
  • Add the brown sugar, stir in and press any lumps out.
  • Add the cinnamon, lemon zest and lemon juice and mix until it is all combined.
  • Reduce the heat to low and add the diced apples.
  • Stir the apples to coat in the caramelised mix.
  • Add the sultanas if you’re using them.
  • Occasionally stir the apples over the course of around 6 minutes. The apples should be tender but not mush. They will continue to cook when baking the muffins so don’t over do it.
  • Take the apple mixture off the heat and leave to cool while you make the muffin batter.

For the muffin batter

  • Melt the butter and leave aside to cool.
  • Heat the oven to 175 degrees Celsius.
  • Prepare a muffin tin either with liners, or a light spray of the muffin tin.
  • Add all the dry ingredients into a large bowl and whisk to combine.
  • Add the chopped toasted walnuts to the dry ingredients.
  • To a medium bowl mix together the eggs, yoghurt and buttermilk.
  • Add the melted butter and stir into the other wet ingredients.
  • Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and gently fold until partially combined.
  • Add the caramelised apple mixture and continue to gently fold the ingredients. The batter may still be lumpy and the flour not completely incorporated which is OK. You don’t want to overwork the mixture which will result in a tough muffin texture.
  • Spoon the mixture into the prepared muffin tin.
  • Sprinkle the tops with raw sugar.
  • Bake for 20-22 minutes until a toothpick inserted comes out clean, or a few dry crumbs.
  • Turn the pan half way through to ensure even baking.
  • Leave the muffins in the tin for around 5 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.

My Notes:

  • Here’s a few extra tips. If the butter is still too hot and you add this to your eggs, you risk cooking the eggs.
  • If the yoghurt or buttermilk is too cold then the melted butter will begin to solidify.
  • You don’t need to be perfect with peeling the apples.
  • You can use all buttermilk like the original recipe. I had some yoghurt that was close to the expiry date so I used this up in the recipe.
  • Since all the rising is from baking soda you need to get the muffins into the oven as soon as you can. So don’t dither. Make sure the oven is at temperature before adding the wet and dry ingredients, and make sure your muffin tin is prepared before beginning.


My lemon had been sitting around for some weeks but it was really juicy. I absolutely loved making the caramelised apples. Each time I added another ingredient the aroma changed. Sadly for Mr Fussy I added the cinnamon just as he was entering the kitchen. I thought the aroma was magnificent. He tells me he knew at that point he wasn’t going to be having any of these muffins.

Then I added the lemon zest and the kitchen was filled with the intense smell of lemon. It was such fun. I loved making the caramelised apple mixture, even though it made these muffins a bit more work for a typical throw it all together in a jiffy, muffin.

Cinnamon Apples

I’m hoping from the photo you can see the consistency of the caramelised apples as the cooked. They still hold their shape but have softened. Don’t over cook them or you’ll end up with apple sauce. Apple sauce will taste delicious but it wont give you a nice bite of apple in the muffins.

Muffin liners and batter

Several people have asked how I make these tulip muffin liners. I don’t make them. Does that make me lazy? I never dreamt of making them. I’ve bought mine from Stevens but have found online that some supermarkets stock them. I’d never seen them at the supermarket before, but this week I found them on the very bottom shelf tucked away. They came in a cylinder of both white and brown tulip papers. Since they were about $3.00 cheaper, and I’d never seen them before, I bought them. If you look at that photo you may be able to spot the ONE liner I used from the supermarket pack. I have to say this is one of those times you get what you pay for. Even though there was nothing wrong with them per se, I’d rather spend a few more dollars at Stevens. Can you see that ONE liner that isn’t quite like the others?

The photo of the muffin mixture shows there’s still a little bit of flour that’s not fully incorporated. This is absolutely ok.

Toasted Walnuts

Have you toasted nuts before? I left these in the oven while it was heating up. I could smell them toasting and then gave the pan a bit of a Jamie Oliver flick so that the walnuts were tossed about. I put them back in for another minute of two. Don’t put them under the grill, just leave them on the oven rack in the middle or lower 1/3 of the oven. Once they were toasted I then chopped them up.

Baking muffins

Yum. For once it was me wishing I could take photos quicker so that I could sample a muffin.

Fresh Apple Cinnamon Walnut Sultana Muffins

I loved seeing the chunks of apple and the walnut pieces peeking through the batter along with the sultanas. These smelt so great. And I hadn’t had breakfast, and it was now close to midday. No wonder my tummy was rumbling.

Muffin texture

In case it wasn’t clear in my earlier writing, I really enjoyed these muffins, I had two. As I greedily ate the first one I was hoping that I’d get a mouthful with a bit of apple, walnut and sultana. I didn’t. But I wasn’t really disappointed. I thoroughly enjoyed these muffins. The flavour combinations, the smell, the light texture, they were all spot on.

Apple Muffins


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Strawberry cupcakes using dried strawberry powder

I’m on a bit of a mission. Well I’ve been trying for some time now to get flat cupcakes. It’s not that easy, but it turns out it’s not impossible. For others.

I tried a new recipe and I lowered my oven temperature right down to 150 degrees Celsius, from what should have been 175 degrees.

You may be wondering why I’m keen to achieve a flatter top for my cupcakes. Well the icing pipes on it better, and I want to try my hand at cupcake toppers. They’re made with fondant and placed on top of a slightly rounded (due to a layer of buttercream frosting) cupcake.

I’m making progress.

Trying for flat tops

Yeah ok, so there’s something very wrong with the one that appears to have a nipple on it. I have no idea what was going on in the oven to produce that!

Making it pretty

Anyway, the cupcakes.

I chose Glorys Vanilla Cupcake recipe. I’ve used Glory’s chocolate cupcake recipe before to make the Moro Gold Max Caramel Cupcakes.

I haven’t found any supermarket yet who stocks cake flour. I’ve found it for sale on TradeMe though. However I haven’t bought it yet and I know to take some flour out and add some cornflour in its place. The recommendation is to then sift the combination some 5 or so times. I took shortcuts. I don’t think you’d be able to tell had I not spilled the beans.

The recipe calls for 1 1/4 cups of cake flour. I had 1 cup of standard flour and 1/4 cup of cornflour and I used a whisk to give it a really good mix through. And we had cake flour (or a pretty decent substitute).


There was another change to the way to make the cupcake batter. Glory had done her own testing which you can read about on her blog Glorious Treats. She found using a hand mixer produced the best results for flat topped cupcakes.

I followed Glory’s instructions with the addition of the dried strawberry powder and the made-up cake flour.

I used my cookie scoop to place the batter into the cupcake liners. This helped give a more consistent serving of batter. As I dipped the scoop in I then used my finger to scrape the batter from the outside of the scoop. There’s nothing more annoying than finding the batter has dropped onto a cake liner.

I bought the white cupcake liners online, they are a little bigger than some of the liners I’ve used in the past. They are slightly higher. I was a little worried the batter was too little for the liner. The cookie scoop measures 3 tablespoons up to the metal scoop part of it, the bit that moves on the inside to release the contents.

Batter in the pans

I really like my silicone muffin pan. I like the cupcakes being more straight sided. But the cavity is a little smaller and often the liner wants to crinkle because they’re a little fuller than the top of the pan. You can see that happening with the liner in the bottom left of the right image. That cupcake is the one that had the “nipple”. It’s actually a little fuller. I scraped all of the left over batter into the liner. I wasn’t sure it was enough at the start, but it ended up being a little more than I needed. The recipe made 15 cupcakes using these two pans. They are 5cm at the base and 6.5cm at the top. I’d like a pan that was only 6cm at the top. If you know where you can get one with these dimensions I’d love to know. With the batter in I was hoping it was sufficient that it would reach the top of the liner during baking. I can tell you there were some anxious moments as I watched. I also urged them not to dome too much. It was all looking perfect, they were almost at the top of the liner and still flat. So I turned away. And then they domed a little bit. I think I can live with it.

Dont over do the frosting

One of the benefits of having a flatter surface for the cupcake is that you don’t need as much frosting. I guess that’s up to individual taste, but I didn’t have to start at the outer edge in order to get a base before achieving a swirl. I didn’t have to compete with the already domed cupcake. I used the Wilton 1M tip for these cupcakes.

So we’ve covered off doming, the liners and the cookie scoop. Best I get on with the recipe then.

Strawberry Cupcakes minimally adapted from Glory’s Vanilla Cupcakes



  • 1 cup standard flour
  • 1/4 cup cornflour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried strawberry powder
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup oil (vegetable, canola or extra light olive oil)
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk (or 1/2 cup milk plus 1/2 teaspoon white vinegar or lemon juice- add acid to the milk then set aside for 5 minutes before using)


  • 56gm softened butter
  • 1/4 cup shortening (I use Kremelta)
  • 2 cups of icing sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cream (or milk)
  • 1 teaspoon dried strawberry powder



  • Heat the oven to 150 degrees Celsius.
  • Whisk the flour and cornflour together.
  • Add to the flour mix the baking powder, baking soda, dried strawberry powder and salt. Give all the ingredients a good whisk.
  • In a larger bowl add the eggs and using an electric hand mixer beat the eggs until they are mixed well.
  • Add the sugar and mix with the eggs on medium until combined.
  • Add the oil and vanilla extract to the egg and sugar mixture and on medium speed mix together. The mixture will thicken a little.
  • Add half of the flour ingredients and with the mixer on low mix until the flour is almost incorporated.
  • Add in half the buttermilk and continue to mix until it is just blended.
  • Put the remainder flour ingredients into the bowl and with the mixer on low mix until the flour is fully combined.
  • Add the last of the buttermilk and mix on low until fully combined.
  • Use a cookie scoop or a jug with a pour spout to fill the cupcake liners with about 3 tablespoons of batter.
  • Bake the cupcakes for 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
  • Turn the pan half way through baking.
  • Leave the cupcakes in the pan for a few minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.
  • When the cupcakes are completely cool then frost as desired.


  • Using a mixer beat together the butter and shortening.
  • Scrape the bowl down.
  • Add the icing sugar and dried strawberry powder and mix on low until combined. You want to avoid a dust storm so wait until most of the icing sugar has been incorporated before turning up the speed to complete mixing the icing sugar.
  • Depending on the consistency add the cream or milk one tablespoon at a time until you reach the desired consistency.
  • Increase the mixer to medium and continue to beat the frosting.
  • If you want a more intense strawberry flavour add more powder 1/4 teaspoon at a time. This is concentrated powder and a little will alter the flavour quite a lot.

Pretty in pink

The dried strawberry powder is by Fresh As. I found it at the Mediterranean Food Warehouse on Tuam Street. It cost $11.50 for a 30gm re-sealable sachet. A bit dearer than the $9.90 on the website, but then I didn’t have to pay for delivery.

The cupcakes are quite soft and you have to be careful handling them not to squish the sides. The texture is very delicate. As I cut into the cupcake the whole thing started following the knife, I thought it might fold in on itself. I’ll make these again, but I wont add cornflour, I’ll use 1 1/4 cups standard flour. I want to make the cupcakes for Easter and will be placing fondant on top, so I need a slightly sturdier cupcake since there’ll be a bit of handling going on to achieve what I have in mind.

texture of cupcake

The quantity of frosting was just perfect for 15 cupcakes. Of course it will depend on how generous you want to be. I had enough left for another cupcake. I ate it for dinner. Mr Fussy squeezed it all out into a little container and while I’ve been typing up this post I’ve been scooping a little at a time, and it’s all gone. The strawberry powder gives quite a tang. Nothing close to making you pucker your lips, it’s just a nice fresh taste. Though Mr Fussy was having trouble detecting it. I didn’t want to add any more because I didn’t want the colour any deeper than it was. All the colour came from the powder. The small amount I added to the batter didn’t colour it at all, and there’s nothing more than a hint of flavour. I thought you would need to use the powder sparingly but not quite as stingy as I was it seems.

Strawberry speckled frosting

I just wanted to point out the two different shapes I get from the two pans I use. See that one on the left? You can see how the sides are much more straight compared to the cupcake in the middle.

Often I find the batter, once baked, discolours the liner, or makes the liner look oily. I didn’t notice that at all with this recipe, but I still erred on the side of caution and so dressed these cupcakes up with a secondary liner. Of course you don’t need to do that. From further reading of other websites (American), you need to find liners with glassine or that state grease resistant for minimal oiliness.

While I don’t want to grumble about my beautiful country, I really am struggling to find the same type of liners of the same quality as you find overseas.

Right now I’ve ordered from Etsy to get designs I can’t find, here in Christchurch at least. And I’m about to place an order from Amazon in Canada where Gerry, a cousin of Mr Fussy’s dad, is going to send onto me. Thanks Gerry!  While I’m finding ways of getting around the limited supply I find in New Zealand, it would be wonderful if there was somewhere in NZ that supplied all the beautiful things that I’ve found online.  We wont speak of the £23 I spent on Easter decorations that arrived this week. This is turning out to be an expensive hobby. But I’m enjoying it, and I’m learning lots of new things, and I’m trying (or about to) different techniques of decoration.

I’m really looking forward to our trip to Melbourne early June. I’m hoping to spend equal time clothes shopping as I spend in Cake/Cook stores.

Little pearls, a little bling

Update: It’s Sunday, I decided I should really use some of those decorations I have stored in my pantry. I wondered how the pearl thingees would adhere to the icing almost 24 hours later. Well they don’t like to stay put. Those swirls are like a slide for them. They kept rolling down them and were spat out the bottom, caught by the liner. It was slightly amusing for all of 2 seconds. I used the cake decorating tweezers I have to individually pick them up and deliberately place them on the icing, giving a little push to make sure they stayed. I don’t know if it would have been any easier doing this on the day. It certainly gives me a greater appreciation for the time and effort some people put into their cupcake decorations. Maybe sanding sugar is easier, or Jimmies, 100’s and 10000’s. At least they’re less like a beach ball to a slide.

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Melting Moments, a Kiwi Classic

New Zealanders need no introduction to this household recipe book. The Edmonds Cookery Book. Those from further afield wont recognise this as being a Kiwi Icon. Edmonds was THE recipe book. The book you took with you when you left home, the book given to you when you headed off to University or flatting, or when you got married. It’s a Kiwi Classic, and so is the recipe I chose, Melting Moments.

Edmonds Recipe Book

Time has marched on (I sound like my dad) and I’d say it’s probably time some of the recipes had another ‘test’. Though the book I have is neither the original edition, or the latest edition. Perhaps there’s been another test since the 25th Anniversary Edition.

Stack of melting moments

These lot were from the first tray that I put. The recipe stated 180 degrees Celsius for 20 minutes. I admit I’ve not made these biscuits for a very long time, despite the page looking like it’s been visited many times. But 20 minutes at that high heat for a biscuit that shouldn’t colour much?

I put them in for only 15 minutes and turned the tray half way through.

This is what I got when I was baking the second tray with my back to the oven getting the third tray ready.

Melting Moments

You can see the colour difference between the first batch (those on the far left and top right) and the second tray. Lots of colour, too much colour.

Oops. So the third tray went in for 15 minutes but when I turned the tray half way through I turned the heat down to 150 degrees to avoid the over baking.

Filling with icing

I pulled the frosting I made last week for the Orange Cupcakes, from the freezer this morning (yes it had frozen solid) to use as the filling for these biscuits. The recipe says to put the biscuits together with Raspberry jam and icing. The jam would have made the biscuits slide a lot when holding them plus Raspberry and Orange wasn’t a flavour combination I wanted to try.

Shortbread type biscuit

Should anyone not be familiar with Melting Moments, they are more like a shortbread type biscuits. Traditionally you would roll them into balls and use a fork (you’ll probably need to regularly flour it) to flatten them a little before putting them into the oven to bake.

Making & baking Melting Moments

The cornflour in the recipe makes these crisp and delicate. And they remind me of my childhood, it’s the type of biscuit that we would make on a fairly regular basis. You’ll find most supermarkets also making Melting Moments from the bakery. They are usually quite a lot larger, and put together with an icing coloured pink. I can’t explain why. But I can’t pooh-pooh the idea, after all, I’ve put these together with orange icing, which is coloured, wait for it, orange Smile

lots of moments

I would never buy Melting Moments from the supermarket, but I’d make these again. Having learnt now that 15 minutes is most likely plenty of time, turn them half way through baking, and don’t be afraid to turn the temperature down to something like 160-170 degrees. You don’t want these light and crisp biscuits to brown.


Spicy Fruit Buns

I think I’ve cracked it. The Raisin Bread has been perfected, according to Mr Fussy, and was transformed into buns last Saturday.

Real butter with buns

I spent a couple of evenings looking at Hot Cross Bun recipes to see if the recipes were close to the ingredients and proportions of the Raisin Bread recipe.

I didn’t really know if a bread loaf would convert to buns without any further tweaking.

Giving up on tracking down a recipe with similar proportions (flour mostly) I decided to stop fluffing about and ask Google straight if you can make buns from a load recipe.

And the answer ….. of course you can!

I wish I’d asked the question a day earlier.

A single spicy fruit bun

I was pretty chuffed these worked out, but there’s still a bit of tweaking in making the rolls the size I want.

I went with what I’ve read, 2oz a roll. And yes I got the scales out. The dough prior to adding the raisins and half packet of Mixed Peel was 600gm. I would have gotten 10 buns. But then I added the fruit and recalculated based on 2oz and it worked out as 16 buns.

What I’ve realised is that it’s better to have 2oz of dough per bun. So next time I’ll take whatever the weight and divide it by 10. My assumption is the dough sans fruit and peel will still be 600gm.

Making spicy fruit buns

The dough was quite sticky after adding in the half packet of mixed peel. I had to ask Mr Fussy to cup his hand and scoop a bit of flour and shake it over the bench. My hands were sticky and busy with the dough. While he stood behind me watching and waiting for the next instruction, he said “The raisins are all coming out!” and as I started to explain what I was doing, I realised there was a hint of anxiety in his voice. I stopped what I was doing and gave the necessary reassurance they would not be lost. It made me smile. This is how much Mr Fussy loves his fruit, and hot cross buns.

This is the first recipe where I’ve seen real change in size of the dough on the second rise. The Blueberry Lemon Scrolls are the only other bread recipe where I’m making individual buns/scrolls and they don’t show a lot of change during the 40 odd minutes waiting for the 2nd rise.

texture of the buns

The texture is just right for a bun, but they weren’t as high as I would like. Hopefully making the recipe into 10 or 12 buns  rather than 16 will rectify that.

The recipes I had read said the buns (hot cross buns that is) should be glazed with warm apricot jam.

I’m all for that when I make these into hot cross buns, but since I was calling these Spicy Fruit Buns I decided to heat a little of the Lemon Marmalade I had, which I used on the Lemon Cream Tart. I got distracted and could hear some popping. I was calling out to Mr Fussy asking what that noise was when I realised it was the marmalade. It had gotten quite thick, so I added some orange juice which I’d squeezed to use in the Orange Cupcakes I was making at the same time. The marmalade had a lovely citrus flavour. I didn’t put the marmalade though a sieve as was suggested when making proper hot cross buns. I liked the extra texture on the top of the buns. I really felt these were fruit buns and not hot cross buns. Though the transition will be really simple.

Lemon marmalade glazed buns

If you’re wondering where the other 4 buns are, they were in a separate dish. We decided that 12 was more than the 3 of us could eat for lunch so I might as well not bake them. However they had already had their second rise when we decided not to bake them.

I put the other 4 buns into the fridge with the intention of baking them up on Sunday. As it happened no one was home for lunch Sunday so I baked them up on Monday night. They had dried out a little in the fridge and didn’t bake up as well. I ate them Tuesday but I’m not sure I could recommend leaving them in the fridge prior to the second rise because I’ve not done that myself yet.

Drenched in butter

The changes I’ll make when it comes to March, a more acceptable time to start eating hot cross buns, are:

  • Pipe crosses with a flour and water paste
  • Glaze with warmed, strained, Apricot Jam


The final mix of spices that have perfected the taste of the Raisin Bread recipe:

3 tsp (1 Tbs for non-Australian readers) Cinnamon

1 tsp Mixed Spice

1 tsp Ginger

1/4 tsp Cardamom

1/4 tsp Nutmeg


What to do with unwanted oranges? Make orange cupcakes

Piped icing on cupcakes

We were at the supermarket Friday evening and Mr Fussy spied some very nice looking oranges. He uses an orange a day in his fruit salad. We still had 5 oranges sitting in the fruit bowl at home. I told him to get the lovely new, fresh oranges, I’d find a way to use up the discarded ones from home.

And I did.

I made orange cupcakes and cursed the straight-edged paper liners. This is the third time I’ve attempted to bake cupcakes in them. That’s it. I’ve had enough. They’ horrid, and if anyone is after some pretty cupcake liners then I’ve got about 2.5 cylinders looking for a new home.

Hideous paper liners

Can you imagine how hard those lopsided cupcakes are to frost? Without a word of a lie I think I tipped the frosting off each more than once to have another go. I got there in the end but it wasn’t easy.

The duds

I wanted a nice light cupcake paper but I didn’t have any. I’ve got some on their way to me but they’ve not arrived.

This collection is what I had to work with. The photo is taken from my phone.

2013-02-16 10.47.03

The Christmas collection is still looking plentiful. I bought those wrappers specifically for Christmas and never made cupcakes after buying them, well not during the Christmas period. And I forgot I had some pink heart cupcake liners. I could have made the red velvet cupcakes with the frozen white chocolate Lindt ball in them. I’m still planning that but it obviously wont be a Valentine’s cupcake.

Anyway, back to those forlorn oranges dismissed by Mr Fussy. They were fantastic. So juice, so sweet. And now all gone between a freshly squeezed orange juice for breakfast and these cupcakes.

Making cupcakes

Aside from those misbehaved cupcakes in the paper liners, I’m still struggling to get cupcakes that bake flat. I’ve been doing quite a bit of research on it. I’m going to have to lower my oven temperature significantly I think.

This batter started out really runny, but by the time all the flour was incorporated, it was quite a stiff batter. And in turn that resulted in quite a dense cupcake, that and not using any buttermilk. I knew when I saw the recipe that the absence of buttermilk would yield a slightly less tender cupcake than I’ve baked before. But I just couldn’t be bothered with figuring out the science with the baking powder and baking soda if I replaced the milk for buttermilk.

Never mind. The flavour is delightful. It actually reminds me of a Madeira cake. Well I guess there’s no real surprise there.

Orange Cupcakes minimally adapted by Annie’s Eats


  • For the cupcakes:
    225 gm butter, at room temperature
    2 cups vanilla sugar
    2 tbsp. finely grated orange zest
    4 large eggs
    1½ cups cream (or whole milk)
    ½ cup freshly squeezed orange juice
    2 tsp. vanilla bean paste
    4 cups all-purpose flour
    ½ tsp. baking powder
    ½ tsp. baking soda
    ½ tsp. salt
  • For the candied oranges:
    1½ cups sugar
    1½ cups water
    About 30 small, thin orange slices

For the frosting:

  • 113 gm butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup shortening (Kremelta)
  • 4 cups icing sugar
  • 2.5 tbsp. orange juice
  • 1 tsp. orange essence
  • Instructions
  • Heat the oven to 180 deg Celsius.

For the cupcakes:

  • Cream the butter, vanilla sugar and orange juice until light and fluffy.
  • Add the egg one at a time and beat until each is fully incorporated.
  • Scrape down the bowl as needed.
  • In a measuring jug mix together the cream (or milk) and vanilla bean paste.
  • In a bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  • Starting with the dry ingredients, add 1/3 to the mixer and mix on low until the flour is almost incorporated.
  • Add 1/2 of the liquid and with the mixer on low, mix until the liquid is fully incorporated.
  • Repeat with another 1/3 of the flour followed by the remaining liquid and finally the last of the flour. Mix on low until the flour is fully incorporated.
  • Prepare the muffin tin with cupcake liners.
  • Spoon the batter into the muffin liners to 2/3 full.
  • Bake for 18-20 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean. Turn the tins half way through baking to ensure an even bake.
  • Allow the cupcakes to cool in the tin for 5 minutes then transfer to a cooling rack.
  • When the cupcakes are cool, frost as desired.

For the candied oranges:

  • In a large shallow pot or skillet bring the water and sugar to a gentle boil until the sugar has dissolved.
  • Add finely sliced orange to the pan, ensuring they remain in a single layer. Don’t overcrowd.
  • Reduce the heat to a gentle simmer.
  • Simmer for 20 minutes, turning the orange slices at least once during cooking to allow both sides to be candied.
  • Leave the orange slices in the syrup until needed. Or if you have too many slices for one batch, use tongs to remove the slices and leave on waxed paper and continue  with the remaining orange slices.
  • Store the orange slices with the syrup in a jar if you don’t need all of them. Keep them refrigerated.

For the frosting:

  • In the bowl of a mixer beat the butter and shortening until light and whipped.
  • Add the orange juice and orange essence and continue to beat.
  • Add the icing sugar and with the mixer on low mix until the icing sugar begins to be incorporated.
  • Increase the speed of the mixer and continue to mix for several minutes until the frosting is light and fluffy.
  • If you’re adding colouring, add it after the icing sugar has been fully incorporated. Add a little colouring at a time and allow the frosting to mix for a good 30-60 seconds before deciding if you want a deeper colour. Repeat as necessary to achieve the colour required.

My Notes:

  • I halved the cupcake recipe above. The candied oranges and frosting are the same quantities I used.
  • I already had a cup of vanilla sugar in the pantry, but if you don’t have vanilla sugar then use a vanilla bean, if you don’t have a vanilla bean then double the amount of vanilla bean paste. If you don’t have vanilla bean paste, lots and lots of vanilla extract, or wait until you have those items before making the recipe Smile
  • In the end I didn’t use the candied orange slices. With the type of piping I used the orange slices would have hidden it all, or fallen off. And I was just a little be pleased with my piping. So the orange slices are in the fridge.
  • Making a 1/2 quantity I got 13 cupcakes.

Candied Orange Slices-2

I had heaps of fun playing around with the large Wilton icing tips I had. Mr Fussy bought the French Tip as a stocking stuffer, and this was the first opportunity I had to try it. It’s fiddly. It’s pretty unforgiving. If you don’t get a perfect round as you pipe it’s really obvious, and that goes for each layer of piping you add.


I think I did alright. But since I’m really pedantic about such things, I only iced 3 or 4 like this. You’ve got to be enjoying what you’re doing, if you’re not, then it’s time to move onto something else, or the next tip Smile

I actually put down a layer of waxed paper on the bench and practiced each icing style before I iced a cupcake. And I accidentally figured out how to get the really frilly icing by trying to force the remainder icing out of my disposable bag while still piping in a circle. Now that WAS a fun moment. And then I figured out another one too, this time by piping a few stars to ensure all the air bubbles were out.

I ended up using the 1M and 2D tips as well. You may not quite tell there’s two different ruffles going on. It’s subtle. The 1M did a nicer ruffle than the 2D. But I find the 2D makes a better rose swirl.

1M and Rose swirl

This next photo shows the 3 different styles I tried. The icing itself was so nice to use, and it tasted great. In fact it’s the best tasting frosting I’ve made. I’m not sure why I’ve shied away from a frosting that uses shortening. Ana, fro Facebook had told me about it many months ago. But I continued to use the cream cheese frosting, which I have no complaints about.

What I really like about the shortening version is that the icing is much more paler. With less butter, it’s less yellow. And it doesn’t have a really heavy butter flavour.

I was enjoying my afternoon casually pottering around making pretty little icing patters on the waxed paper and sneaking bits of icing from the bowl. It was, for me, a great afternoon of discovery.

Piped icing on cupcakes

You might be able to tell the cupcake at 1 o’clock and 6 o’clock look slightly different to the one in the middle and at 11 o’clock. These are the two different tips, 1M and 2D.

And everyone together now:

All together now

I can tell you there’s a LOT of frosting on those cupcakes.

In fact eating one almost made me feel ill. I actually had to stop and compose myself, almost feeling obligated to continue but knowing that I’d done my dash. But as usually I dug deep and managed to cross the line. Devoured! So those cupcakes that look so pretty with the rows and rows of ruffles, are incredibly hard going to eat (without making yourself ill).

Below is the one I had this morning. Yes, this morning. Followed by a Raisin Oat Cookie. I called it breakfast. As you do. I had just come home from a 60 minute run. I thought it was justified (who am I kidding!?).

I wanted to show you what the texture was of the cake. Having just recently proclaimed I rather make a recipe where I’ve seen the texture of the item, it’s only fair I post one on my own blog.


Ahem, that was one for breakfast, and one for dessert. Sadly I didn’t have a second 60 minute run to make myself feel righteous about it. Oops.


Monday update – when I got up this morning I saw Mr Fussy had organised his morning tea for the entire week. Monday’s was already safely tucked in his backpack.

2013-02-18 06.50.37

The top shelf is a little too difficult for me to reach without a chair so I reckon these are fairly safe, and if any cookies disappear then I’m definitely out of luck. First in best dressed.


Round 2: Raisin Oat Cookies

During my extra long weekend leading into Waitangi Day I made raisin oat cookies. I’d seen the recipe a week or so ago and I’d been itching to make them. I had to be patient because we were out of town the weekend following the recipe being posted.

I was pretty hyped up about finally getting to make them. I had such high hopes. I was quite enthusiastic about it all. And then they baked and they didn’t seem quite right, and then they went really soft and cakey and I wouldn’t eat them. I admit I made some changes to the recipe. I swapped out brown sugar for Muscavado brown sugar, I mixed up the spices by replacing some of the cinnamon with cardamom. But that’s it. Nothing drastic, I didn’t mess with quantities.

But this recipe, this is so much more like I was expecting, this is almost perfect.

Stack of cookies

I was so relieved when I saw Averie’s post for her Thick and Chewy Oatmeal Raisin Cookies. It was like someone knew how disappointed I was and came to my rescue.

Its been a few weeks since Averie’s post, again I had other things planned and had to wait.

Plate of Raisin Oat Cookies

I had other things this weekend I wanted to make, so I got started Friday night with making the cookie dough. Given the dough needs to be refrigerated for at least 2 hours, or several days, the timing worked for me. I got a head start.

Chilled cookie dough

I used my cookie scoop but found the dough to be too cold to make the job as easy as I’d have liked. But I didn’t want the dough to soften, to soften was going to cause the cookies to expand too much during baking.

Cookie dough balls

The cookie scoop did struggle to release the little mounds, but we got there. I wasn’t sure the cookies would flatten enough. I was already at 10 minutes and felt the cookies were still too round and not as flat as expected.

When I was sure the cookies were cooked as Averie described I pulled them out and then gently squashed the tops with the back of a dessert spoon.  The first two trays were cooked together on Fan Bake. For the last tray I flattened the dough a little before I put them into the oven, and they spread better. They still make a reasonably thick cookie though.

Cookies and milk

I wasn’t sure Mr Fussy would like these cookies. They have 2 teaspoons of cinnamon, and with his aversion to cinnamon I expected him to turn his nose up before even taking a tiny bite from a cookie. But I was wrong. The cinnamon is pretty subtle. I only really tasted it at the end of a mouthful. If I didn’t know it was an ingredient then I probably wouldn’t have detected it at all. So on that count I guess Mr Fussy is lucky. What it does mean is that I have to share these cookies. I was expecting to have them all to myself for morning tea during the week.  There’s no muffins this week.

Lots of raisins

That’s the lot. Minus the two that we sampled to make sure they were baked correctly. There’s still 15 of them, more than we’ll need for the week between us. But then cookies like these tend to evaporate. Mr Fussy prepares his morning teas a few days at a time. He packages up his treats in Gladwrap so that it’s all easy for just grabbing and heading out the door. So if anyone misses out, I guess it will be me. I tend to leave everything more until the last 5 minutes. Which seems a bit odd for someone who likes to be organised and plans everything out.

Thick Chewy Oatmeal Raisin Cookies by Averie Cooks


  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups whole rolled oats
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons High Grade flour (or, 1 cup minus two tablespoons)
  • 1 cup raisins


  • Add the butter, egg, brown sugar, vanilla to a mixer bowl and cream until very light and fluffy, 4 to 5 minutes.
  • Scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary.
  • Add the rolled oats, cinnamon, baking soda, salt, and with the mixer on low, mix to incorporate, about 30 – 60 seconds.
  • Add the flour. With the mixer on low speed, mix until  all the flour has been incorporated, about 30 seconds.
  • Add the raisins and mix to incorporate.
  • Transfer mixture to an airtight container or cover mixing bowl with Gladwrap and refrigerate the dough for at least two hours, up to 5 days.
  • Heat the oven to 180degrees Celsius.
  • Use a cookie scoop, or spoon about 2 tablespoons of dough into a mound onto a baking tray lined with Baking paper/parchment or a Silpat mat or similar.
  • Depending on how thick you want the cookies, give them a light press.
  • Bake for 10-12 minutes until the edges of the cookie has browned and set. The middle may still appear uncooked, but the cookies will continue to bake even when removed from the oven. More cooking time will make the cookies more crisp.
  • Leave the cookies on the baking tray for 5 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.
  • As the cookies cool they will continue to set.


  • Averie’s comment on the flour: the secret to these cookies staying thick and chewy is the high grade flour; although all-purpose may be substituted, the results will be superior with bread flour.

My Notes:

  • The middles of the cookies really did appear to be undercooked. But as Averie mentions, during cooling the cookies continue to set, so don’t be alarmed.
  • I use the Harroways Traditional Wholegrain Oats. Don’t use the stuff you might use for a more chunky porridge. Look for Wholegrain Oats. There’s several different brands at the supermarket.
  • I was concerned the oats may still be undercooked with them being wholegrain, but that wasn’t the case. You wont feel as if you’re eating chaff (which was my experience with the first Raisin Oat cookie recipe I tried, despite the cookies then turning soggy/cakey within hours afterward).
  • I would make these cookies with some dried diced apricots too. That would add a little bit of tart to the cookies. I like a bit of tart.

Milk and cookies

Yes, these cookies are definitely the type you’d expect to eat at the kitchen table with a glass of milk. I don’t like milk but I know this is the right way to eat these.


A not so perfect Pear Coffee Cake

I hope this doesn’t come as a surprise. Not everything I set my mind to in the kitchen turns out well.

I don’t have many disasters, I think there’s only 1 thing that I had to throw out. My first yeast rolled scrolls if I recall correctly.

There are things I’ve baked that are OK, but not something I want to spend any more time over editing photos and writing about.

This Pear Coffee Cake isn’t perfect, but the flavour is so nice that I still want to share my experience making/baking it.

Baked Pear Coffee Cake

It looks fine. It smelt good. But looks can be deceiving. And all was not perfect once I cut into the cake. Actually I had a hint the cake wasn’t baking quite as you’d expect.

The recipe says 40-50 minutes of baking. Usually I’m on the shorter time for baking. My oven runs a little hot. So if I don’t adjust the temperature I know the baking time is shorter.

I started testing the cake at 38 minutes. I was confident it would be cooked. But the toothpick came out with “moist crumbs”. I finally took it out at 50 minutes having gone through a number of toothpicks.

Without stating the obvious, to make Pear anything, you need pears. I bought these the week before, expecting to make pear and almond muffins. But things got away on me and I made Mixed Berry Muffins instead.

Having the pears sit around for a week longer than intended, I was quite keen to use them. Mr Fussy doesn’t like pears but had I used these in muffins that wouldn’t have been a consideration. The mere discussion about what I was using made Mr Fussy pull a face and mutter words about not having any.


I found quite a lot of recipes. I wanted to use the left over yoghurt I had. And generally buttermilk, sour cream and yoghurt can be used interchangeably. Perhaps not.

Ok, here’s a picture of the inside of the cake, if I get that out the way then we can move on.

Texture of Pear Coffee Cake

As I say, this tasted really lovely, but that texture. It was like rubber. It wasn’t hard rubber, but it had way more bounce than you ever want in a cake.

I’ve looked at the recipe and tried to understand why it didn’t come out right. Did I overmix the batter? I don’t think so. I was really careful not to. Was it replacing sour cream with yoghurt? It shouldn’t have been. They’re meant to be interchangeable.

Were the pears over ripe?

Pear slices

I don’t think so. They weren’t mushy. I didn’t need all of the pear slices to cover the cake batter so I ate most of the left over pear. It wasn’t over ripe at all.

Slice of Pear Coffee Cake

At the time I was getting all the ingredients together on the bench I thought I’d overlooked the butter since there wasn’t any out. But I re-read the recipe and there was no butter. So all the liquid was from the eggs and yoghurt. Maybe it was more crucial in that case to use the sour cream. I made only one other change, to add 1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg.

Preparing a Pear Coffee Cake

Here’s the link for the original recipe, Sour Cream Pear Coffee Cake.

I haven’t thrown the cake away. It really does taste nice, and the cake isn’t awful, just an odd texture. It’s not quite like munching into a piece of foam (have you had the Lamington practical joke played on you?) but it’s just not what you expect from a coffee cake.

The left over cake – 3/4 of it – is sliced up and put into the freezer. I’ve let my MIL know where it is so she can snack on it during the week if she likes. Mr Fussy wont have any of course. And I’ve still got enough Mixed Berry Muffins to see me through the week.

I really wish this cake had baked up better.

Oh, one other thing to share, does it annoy you having stickers on fruit? By the time I came to use the pears, the sticker actually pulled the skin from the pears.

Nope, I’ve got another thing to say. When I look at recipes I really want a photo of what the baked item is like on the inside. It helps me understand the texture and what I should see in my own version. This recipe didn’t have a photo but I still went with it. I went with it based on the 5 star rating it was given. I’m going with my own form of “fussy” and reject any recipe as a candidate unless I can be sure of what the item is like on the inside.

Right, I think I’ve got everything off my chest now.