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*Coughs quietly* So, er, anyone still out there?

Turns out, I just needed three straight weeks of sleep. Amazing what a few early nights can do. In the meantime, this place has started to look a bit neglected, a little sad and cobwebby in the corners, so it’s probably time to set that right.

With chocolate cupcakes.

These babies definitely come from the no-frills school of cupcake baking but are none the worse for that. One day, I will dust off that piping kit I bought when I was full of good intentions about doing some schmancy-pants decorating – but this recipe from Ottolenghi, The Cookbook will somehow get me through in the meantime.

Ottolenghi is the kind of deli/bakery/food nirvarna I would give my right eye, firstborn child and, well, anything really, to have at the bottom of my street or preferably next door. But I live in deepest, darkest 
commuters-ville, and the only thing at the end of my street is… another housing estate. So Ottolenghi is allowing me to indulge a little daydream about tripping down the bustling city street to my new favourite place and lingering over the mouthwatering selection of salads, mains and baked goods. Cucumber and poppyseed salad, cauliflower and cumin fritters, sweet potato galettes, plum-marzipan muffins, two-textured chocolate cake…

Oops – did I wander off there for a minute? Now, clearly I’m a sucker for a bit of good photography and a great concept. I have been sold a little slice of the urban living fantasy with this book and I know it. But no recipe feels too complicated for a school night and the friendly voices of Sami and Yotam, the owners, flow off every page like they’re old friends just hanging around in your kitchen, talking about what they’d like to make next.

Hmmmmmmm…. what to make next…     

Chocolate cupcakes from Ottolenghi, The Cookbook

Makes 12

2 free-range eggs
115ml soured cream
80ml sunflower oil
20ml black treacle
20g unsalted butter, melted
60g caster sugar
60g light muscovado sugar
120g plain flour
35g cocoa powder
1tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/4 tsp salt
40g ground almonds
200g dark chocolate, cut into small pieces

For the icing:

165g dark chocolate, cut into small pieces
135ml whipping cream
35g unsalted butter, diced
1tbsp Amaretto liqueur

1. Heat the oven to 170C/gas mark 3. Line a muffin tray or bun sheet with 12 paper cases.

2. Whisk together the first seven ingredients in a large mixing bowl until they are just combined – don’t overmix. Sift together the flour, cocoa, baking powder and bicarb. Add them to the wet mix along with the salt and almonds, and gently fold together. Fold in the chocolate pieces.

3. Spoon the batter into the cupcake cases, filling them up completely. Bake for about 20-25 mins – if you insert a skewer in one, it should come out with quite a bit of crumb attached. Remove from the oven and leave to cool, then take the cupcakes out of their tins.

4.  While the cupcakes are in the oven, start making the icing. It will take time to set and become spreadable. Place the chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Put the cream in a small saucepan and heat almost to boiling point, then pour it over the chocolate. Use a rubber spatula to stir until all the chocolate has melted. Add the butter and the Amaretto and beat until smooth.

5. Transfer the icing to a clean bowl and cover the surface with clingflim. Leave at room temperature until the cupcakes have fully cooled and the icing has started to set. You want to catch it at the point when it spreads easily but isn’t hard. Do not rush it by refridgerating!

6. Spoon a generous amount of icing on top of each cupcake and shape with a paleete knife.

Cook’s notes

I may have had the oven turned up too hot, as these were done and a little dark around the edges at bang-on 20 mins. Icing, however, covers a multitude of sins.

I left the icing to set for too long – easily distracted, see – so my efforts don’t look as luscious as they do in the book.

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Cupcakes from The Hummingbird Bakery

My mouth is watering just looking at these beauties… 

Clockwise from the top left, may I present the following cupcakes of tremendous gorgeousness: carrot cake, red velvet, chocolate with chocolate frosting, and – last but not least – nutella. All courtesy of The Hummingbird Bakery on the Portobello Road. It was a toss up between the carrot cake and nutella for the title of ‘king cupcake’. Think the nutella just scrapes that victory. Only just mind you.

Well, of course that meant we ran around London on a giant sugar high like giggling teenagers. Which was handy as we needed the energy to take in places like Books for Cooks, Tea Heaven*, Planet Organic, Wholefoods and The Gate restaurant and everywhere inbetween. 

Oh yes – The Gate. Hmmmmmmm. We had high hopes for this place and I’m sorry to say it didn’t live up to expectations. It was, meh, ok. It’s saying something when the most interesting bit of the meal was the lentil garnish on the starter. If you want truly good veggie grub, I’d have to recommend David Banns in Edinburgh. OK, that’s not a terribly helpful if you’re in London but a good one to remember 🙂 (Just check out the recent Observer Food Awards – Banns is highlighted in both the veggie and main restaurant section.)

But we’ll be going back at some point for more – we didn’t get to Borough Market and that’s just a crying shame. And then there were all the eateries that we wandered past moaning, ‘Ooooooh – we’re too full’ – they all need further, serious investigation too.

So, for future trip planning, where in London do you like to go for foodie treats? What’s your favourite restaurant? Got any gems you’d like to share? It doesn’t have to be veggie (we’d just heard good things about The Gate and thought we’d give it a whirl), just somewhere you love 🙂

If you do leave a comment, though, I might not be able to reply until Monday as, yes, I’m heading off for the weekend again – this time to York to see the folks. Back soon 🙂

cupcake crumbs

*I’m looking for the link to Tea Heaven – I have a card somewhere… This place deserves it’s own blog post.

Hello

I'm short of stature (a family trait) but big of appetite (also a family trait). If you're reading this then you're probably big of appetite too. Or a member of my family (hello Mum).
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