Double Marzipan (simnel-style) Cupcakes

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A lightly spiced, currant and nut-stuffed fluffy cupcake, with a layer of marzipan on top and in the middle. 

I’ll tell the truth– I had no idea my usual Saturday baking experiment was really of traditional substance. All I knew was that I needed to use the marzipan which called my name out sadly every time I opened the little pantry door, as well as the currants I kept for but never used over the Christmas break. So I diddle-daddled, thumb-twiddled, and decided to make these 2-layer marzipan currant cupcakes, only to realise after a bit of research later that these babies are already a thing, and what adorable, moreish things they looked right there on my screen. And so I made them, with heavy tweaks. And loved them.

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This cupcake is truly a thing of beauty– the crumb is of unbeatable lightness, yet the crumbs adhere just the right amount to each other so the cake itself is not too forgiving; the top and bottom bits of the middle layer of marzipan ooze into the adjacent airy crevices a tad, sweet goo cemented to buttery crumb, like little cilia on epithelia (is that too far).

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The amount of eggs used in this recipe is almost double what I expected, but all at the right cost, for that volume provided the perfect amount of moisture, lightness and bind. I substituted the oil with melted butter because I didn’t have any oil on hand, and used almonds and yoghurt as extra additions. Another thing I love is that the use of mostly liquid ingredients here lessens the workload and time needed to make these (by the way, the perfect cook time here is ~25 minutes, tried and tested).

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Once out of the oven, the flat top so characteristic of cupcakes as well as the sides boast an almost-firm, sugary crust, which is why I highly recommend eating these straightaway or at least the same day, for the following day that outer texture will be much less pronounced.

That belly goo, though.

Double Marzipan (simnel) Cupcakes (makes 12, heavily adapted from BBC Food)

Ingredients

450g marzipan

275g white caster sugar

115g (one stick or a half cup) butter, microwaved until softened (melted is fine too)

4 eggs

3 heaping tbsp (50g) honey

1 tsp vanilla extract

200g plain all-purpose flour, plus some extra for rolling out marzipan.

2 tsp baking powder

1 tbsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp nutmeg

60g (1/4 cup) cream cheese, at room temperature (I microwaved mine to quicken the warming process)

60ml (1/4 cup) yoghurt

150g raisins or currants, or use a mix of both

100g chopped/flaked almonds

 

Directions

Line your cupcake tin with 12 liners, and preheat your oven to 180C (350F). Roll the marzipan out on a surface lightly floured, or lightly dusted with some icing sugar. Cut out 24 discs– 12 that are 6cm wide, and 12 that are 5cm wide. All should be 3mm thick, as specified in the original recipe (lesson learnt: using an actual ruler beats doing this by eye by a mile).

In a medium bowl, briefly whisk together the flour, baking powder, spices, chopped almonds, and currants/raisins. In another, larger bowl, whisk together the sugar, melted butter, cream cheese, yoghurt, honey, vanilla and eggs.

Tip in the dry mix and mix until everything is well incorporated.

How easy was that.

Spoon a tablespoonful of batter into the first liner. Place a 5cm-wide circle of marzipan on top, then fill the liner with batter until it’s 3/4 full. Bake in the preheated oven for 25 minutes. Check with a skewer to see if it comes out clean.

Once the cupcakes are out, top each with the 6cm-wide marzipan circles. It’s important, as the recipe states, to do this while the cupcakes are still warm, for this helps seal the top bits of marzipans to the cupcakes, forming a nice and even (and aesthetically pleasing) layer.

For reasons mentioned above, try your best to consume these the same day. Nevertheless, these may be stored in an airtight container for 2-3 days.

 

Hot Cross Cookie Butter Baked Doughnuts

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No, it’s not a traditional hot cross bun, even though it should be, even though most of you probably think I should stop taking shortcuts…? Yeah, something labelled ‘hot cross’ should be in line with tradition, but I don’t think the 1916 Easter uprising in Ireland, or the fact that speculoos biscuits are traditionally eaten in the Netherlands before St. Nicholas’ feast, affected my decision to make something easy, fun, and absolutely yum.

It was solid instinct, in the light of a recent family reunion, that drove me in this direction. Finally getting to see family after what seemed to be forever was enticing, and with my doughnut pan hauled all the way from Singapore just for me, memories of the first time I made baked doughnuts triggered the oven fun.

Speculoos (cookie butter) chocolate-filled baked doughnuts with a speculoos frosting and cream cheese ‘cross’. Lezzgo.

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The best bit of the recipe? Chucking the cookie butter into the microwave, then oohing at the melted, gooey mess before you. This is the gold of the recipe, what will send you over the edge as you mix the wet into the dry mix and bring everything together into the second round of fun gloopy mess.

So you make these doughnuts, then pour more gold on top. Golden, sweet and glistening. You get the rich, chimerical flavour of cookie butter inside and on the outside.

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There wasn’t a fluffier, more tender belly. There is some chopped chocolate in there because I thought why the hell not, but that’s optional, and if you wish you could chuck in some nuts and raisins (I didn’t because I was giving quite a few of these to some people who didn’t like either). So customise it, love it, make it again.

Speculoos is made with cinnamon and nutmeg, so the additional incorporation of those components in this recipe really enhances that natural flavour, and it does make me think of Easter. Full of spice and lots of warmth.

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Hot Cross Cookie Butter Baked Doughnuts (makes 8 doughnuts, adapted from here)

Ingredients

For the doughnuts:

158g (slightly more than 1 1/4 cups) all purpose flour

pinch of salt

1 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp baking soda

2 tbsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp ground nutmeg

50g chopped chocolate (optional)

75g (1/3 cup) white sugar

1 egg

15g (1 tbsp) butter

1 tsp vanilla extract

120ml (1/2 cup) whole milk

3tbsp + 8 tbsp (1/2 cup) speculoos cookie butter spread (3 tbsp for the doughnuts, 1/2 cup for the top

 

For the cream cheese cross:

5 tbsp cream cheese spread (or take some off a block, that works fine too), microwaved until softened

1 tbsp milk

3 tbsp icing sugar

 

Directions

Butter or grease a 6 or 8-doughnut pan (use the 6-doughnut one twice for this batch, of course) and set aside. Preheat your oven to 177C (350F).

In a large bowl, whisk together all the dry ingredients, including the chocolate.

In another microwave-safe bowl, add the one tablespoon of butter, half cup milk and 3 tbsp of speculoos spread, and microwave on high for 20 seconds, just until butter has melted. Leave to cool for a minute, then whisk in the egg and vanilla extract.

Pour the wet into the dry ingredients, and mix until everything is just combined. Pipe batter, or use two tablespoon measurements, into your greased doughnut pan. Bake for 8-9 minutes, no more no less. A wooden skewer inserted into the middle of one should emerge clean, but the doughnut should still feel soft and bouncy to touch.

While they’re baking, melt the rest of the speculoos spread in one bowl, and mix the ingredients for the cream cheese crosses in another. Put the cream cheese mix into a ziploc bag and snip off the end, in such a way that piping the cream cheese would have a flat ribbon effect, not a tube. I find it gives a more aesthetically pleasing result.

Once baked, remove doughnuts from the oven, let cool for a while and then dip into freshly melted speculoos spread. Don’t melt the spread too far ahead, else it will harden and it will be more difficult to dip into. Tip: dip the bottom of the doughnuts, not the top (the side you see when you open the oven), for the little airy pockets on the underside will absorb more of the spread when still a bit warm. Pipe the cream cheese crosses on your doughnuts.

These can be kept for 2-3 days at room temperature, but of course they’re best eaten immediately. Enjoy with a hot cuppa.

Hot Cross Cake Cookies

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Sometimes things get to your head. Sometimes you mean for something to turn out one way, but thanks to some tiny, sudden instinct, or some recent experience with another different but wonderful foodstuff, elements which you never meant to blend together end up doing just that. Sometimes, that’s ok. Like this cookie.

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I never was a fan of fluffy, cakey cookies. I am a hard advocate of pin-thin, dense, chewy cookies, all nicely ridged round the edges and squidgy, half-baked in the middle. You could press the middle and your finger mark will stay. That chewy and squidgy (I love the word squidgy). I felt like doing something over the Easter weekend, but the entire of Saturday and Sunday was a blur, a hectic mess. A jumble of egg hunts, a scramble to feed my sisters and her friends breakfast (pancakes, if you’re wondering), a desperate longing for time cooped up reading in my room. Monday morning called for something dedicated to this holy occasion, but nothing too orthodox. Without much time on my hands, I resorted to cookies, a category I haven’t played with in what feels like forever. I had a gorgeous slice of sponge cake from (goodness knows) somewhere over the Easter weekend, and I guess that theme of airy lightness fed into this experiment. But I’m grateful for the mistake– I think the fluffy nature of this cookie (hence the ‘cake’ before the ‘cookie’ in the title) allows the more stuff to be, well, stuffed into each little cookie. Ah, the stuff. Good stuff. I’ll talk about the stuff.

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Specifically, soft nougat+dried fruit+chocolate. I personally prefer hard nougat, the sort which you’re afraid might make your teeth crack, but it’s the soft ones which work best in this buttery, cinnamony batter, for after the oven action, what you get are gorgeous, chewy, caramelised nougat residue, gooey and melted, with little bits of crushed almond and peanut strewn throughout (depends on the sort of nougat you’re using of course, I think pistachio would be lovely here). The lemon icing on top of the cooled cookies are quite literally the icing on the cake (cookie). The ‘hot cross’ theme limits just how much icing you can smother on these guys, but go ahead and dip one side of the cookie into the icing if you wish, for better indulgence. Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

Stuffed Hot Cross Cake Cookies (makes 15-18, adapted from here)

For the cookies:

240g all-purpose flour

100g light brown sugar (or white, if you don’t have any brown on hand)

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

200g unsalted butter at room temperature

1 teaspoon each of baking powder and cinnamon

quarter teaspoon nutmeg

100g dried fruit/sultanas/raisins

50g each of soft nougat (chopped into small pieces), and dark chocolate chunks or chips

large pinch salt (half a teaspoon)

For the icing:

120g icing sugar and the juice from half a lemon

Preheat your oven to 180C and grease a couple of baking pans. In a large bowl and with an electrical or normal whisk and bicep action, beat together the softened butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla extract, and whisk to incorporate. In a separate smaller bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt.

Chop your nougat into small pieces and coat them with a teaspoon of the flour mix, so the edges stop sticking to each other. Add the rest of the flour mix to the butter and sugar mix, then stir with a wooden spoon to form a soft dough. Add the chocolate, dried fruit/sultanas/raisins, then the nougat. Mix everything to combine.

Dollop batter onto the pans using two tablespoons or with your hands. Each cookie should be the size of a ping pong ball. Bake for 10 minutes in the preheated oven. You may have to do this in batches. While the cookies are baking, make the icing by mixing together (I use a mini whisk or a little fork) the powdered sugar and freshly squeezed lemon juice. You might not need all the juice from half a lemon. Put the icing into a small ziploc bag and set aside. Once the cookies are done, leave to rest in the pan on cooling racks for at least 15 minutes. Snip off the end of the ziploc bag and ice the cookies, drawing a cross on each one. Reinforce the ‘stripes’ by piping over the crosses again.