It’s always important to find the right way, and the right time to start feeling festive. Too early and I end up in the humbug window of wanting January to be here before I’ve unwrapped a single present. Too late and I’m far too unprepared for feeling jolly and miss out on all the fun. For some people it’s a religious event to mark it, like the first Sunday in advent, or the first night of Hannukah. For my man, it’s when he hears Band Aid belting out ‘do they know it’s Christmas’ over the radio, which he sadly heard in November this year.
I decided this year that my marker would be the first ‘Christmas drink’. I like this because it’s more in my control than hearing Bob Geldof over the radio, and much, much more palatable. The best one I have sampled this year has to be Costa’s black forest hot chocolate (other beverage providers are available). I’m quite surprised by this because I don’t really like cherry flavoured things, and so it was only S.’s generous insistence for trying his that I discovered it to be oh-so tasty and the perfect antidote to humbugitude.
Needless to say, it was a matter of minutes before I was thinking about baking up a storm based on my newfound appreciation of a cherry-chocolate combo. I didn’t want a proper black forest cupcake, partly because I didn’t want to use whipped cream, but also because I’ve been dreaming of baking something with a beautiful colour contrast between a dark chocolate base and light pink icing.
I’m really pleased with how these turned out. I love the slightly kitsch feel of the bright pink and the whole cherry with the stem curving out to one side; and the way the splodge of molten chocolate coats the deep redy-purple cherry and sinks into the icing. I love how well the contrast of colours turned out too. Again, I’m surprised at how delicious I found these to be as I was still nervous about working with cherry flavours. As the cherry filling is made with tinned cherries, it avoids the overly sweet forms of flavouring, and gives a rich fruity sweetness to the middle of the cake. The chocolate cupcake is made with my favourite recipe, one that I use as a base for so many variations because it rises enough to allow for filling the middle and is satisfyingly rich and moist. Recipe after the jump.
Old fashioned chocolate cupcakes
200g caster sugar
2 small eggs
125 grams flour
½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
¼ teaspoon salt
35g cocoa powder
1 tablespoon instant coffee powder
1 teaspoon vanilla
1) Preheat oven to 175C or 160C fan. Line cupcake tin with holders.
2) Beat together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add in the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
3) In a separate bowl, weigh out the flour, bicarbonate of soda, salt, cocoa powder and instant coffee powder. Measure out the milk into a jug or container and add the vanilla.
4) Alternating between the two, add in the dry ingredients and the milk in three batches, making sure the batter well incorporated after each addition. Start and finish with the dry ingredients. (i.e. dry, milk, dry, milk, dry). Don’t overbeat. The batter should be thick and chocolatey.
5) Spoon into the prepared containers and bake for 20-24 minutes. Once baked, leave to cool before filling and icing.
1 tin cherries in fruit juice
63 ml water
1) Place all the ingredients in a pot and slowly bring to the boil so that the sugar dissolves.
2) Let simmer at a low heat for about 20 minutes.
3) Let cool so that it thickens before filling the cupcakes.
Vanilla Buttercream Icing
600g icing sugar
few drops pink icing
1) Beat everything together until smooth and lovely.