Mocha Cupcakes

So, let me level with you. The reason these mocha cupcakes exist is because I fairly recently got a kitchen blowtorch and since then I have wanted to blowtorch everything. I got the idea of topping cupcakes with an Italian meringue and finishing them off with the blowtorch and got a bit obsessed with it. You might, rather reasonably, be thinking ‘well, I don’t have a blowtorch so this recipe is of no use to me’. I hear you. I get that most people do not have a blowtorch. But the Italian meringue topping these cupcakes is still perfectly delicious un-blowtorched.


When you make Italian meringue, the hot sugar syrup you incorporate into the egg whites cooks the egg, so going over it with a blowtorch is for effect and a bit of toasty flavour rather than cooking. And if you cannot really be bothered with the whole meringue deal anyway, you can simply top these delicious chocolate cupcakes with buttercream. Or leave them plain and shove them, unadorned, directly into your mouth. It’s all good.

But, should you wish to go down my mocha cupcake route, then do read on to the recipe below.



The recipe makes around 18-20 cupcakes.

The coffee in these cupcakes is mostly to boost and enhance the chocolate flavour, but it’s not really dominant. This is because I do not drink coffee. But if coffee is your jam, do feel free to up it here by raising the quantities of espresso powder, adding coffee extract, or brushing the finished cupcakes with a coffee syrup.

If you are making the meringue, you will need a sugar thermometer and some sort of electric whisk – hand held or a stand mixer will do it.


for the cupcakes

170g butter
170ml very strong black coffee
3 tsp espresso powder
40g cocoa powder
85g dark chocolate, finely chopped
225g light brown soft sugar
2 tsp vanilla
½ tsp salt
3 eggs, plus 1 extra yolk
130g plain flour
1.5 tsp bicarbonate of soda

for the meringue topping

50g of egg white
100g of white granulated sugar
25ml of water
2 tsp espresso powder


  1. Heat your oven to 190C/170C fan/gas 5. Line two muffin tins with around 20 paper cases (if you only have one tin, just bake in two batches). Put your butter and coffee in a large pan over a low heat to melt the butter, then add the espresso powder and stir to dissolve. Whisk in your cocoa and chopped dark chocolate until the chocolate is melted. Add your sugar, vanilla, and salt, and mix again. Mix in your eggs and extra yolk. Finally, sieve your flour and bicarb over the pan and fold that in too. You should have a very runny cake mix.
  2. Fill your paper cases two thirds full (I use an ice cream scoop). Bake them for 15 minutes, or until your cakes are risen and fairly firm.
  3. While your cakes are baking, make your meringue. Beat your egg whites with an electric whisk or in a stand mixer until they form stiff peaks. Put your sugar, water, and espresso powder in a pan and heat gently, stirring a little, to dissolve the sugar. When the sugar is dissolved, whack the heat up and let it bubble away until it hits 120C on a sugar thermometer. Then pour the syrup into the stiff egg whites in a thin stream, beating all the while on high speed. When it’s all in you should have thick, glossy meringue. Keep whisking it for around five minutes, until the bowl is cool to the touch.
  4. When your cupcakes are baked, top them as you wish. If you’ve made the meringue, you can either spoon or pipe it onto the cakes, and you can blowtorch them or leave it at that. You could also top the cupcakes with buttercream or leave them plain.

Mokatines – Bake Off Bake Along Week 8

Bloody hell. When I started this bake along, I sort of forgot how tricky The Great British Bake Off gets near the end. At the beginning, it was all ‘Madeira cake!’ and ‘Biscotti!’ and everything was happy and the world was a just and lovely place. Now it’s all ‘Cream horns!’ and ‘Bloody massive éclair sculpture!’ and… yeah. Shall I start on the excuses now? I don’t have any metal horn shapes to make cream horns (I mean, obviously. Who the hell has those?!), and while I love éclairs I have no desire to give myself a panic attack and/ or heart attack by trying to make a tower out of them. Mokatines are basically cake. I mean, incredibly fiddly cake. With three types of icing. And I have never made a genoise before. But I still thought it was the ‘easy’ option.

I’m an idiot.

I hated this bake from start to finish. I have enjoyed this bake along immensely so far, but this week was dire. The mokatines were fiddly and had absolutely loads of processes, which is to be expected from patisserie, but they were unrewarding too. Not only did mine come out looking terrible – which, I admit, is partly because I was angry with them by the end and thus ended up rushing – they actually didn’t taste good. See that mokatine in the foreground of my pictures? That was seriously my best-looking one. If I make something that looks a mess but tastes delicious then I can live with that, because at least I don’t feel like I have wasted my time. But this week, I made something that looked dreadful and didn’t even taste all that nice and was no fun at all. Ugh.


You may notice that I haven’t piped the little rosettes around the bottom of the mokatines. That is because a) I was completely fed up by that point and couldn’t be arsed and b) the recipe for the crème beurre au moka only made just about enough to pipe the rosettes on the top, and there was no bloody way I was making that thing again. I had to rush the piping because the crème beurre au moka was too thin, and even though I put it in the fridge to firm up, the heat of my hands around the piping bag made it go all runny again. So I did the piping very fast, hence the messiness.

I also did the photos in a rush, so they are dreadful too, and I didn’t have time to wait for the fondant to set (as you can see), so I made the situation even worse. I suppose the lesson I can take from this is ‘take your time, stay calm, don’t rush’, but to be honest, I already know all that. I just ignored my own advice while I was doing this because I was in a huff.

On the plus side, I picked up that plate in the pictures at Sainsburys this week for about £3. Isn’t it pretty?


I’m certainly not going to bother to write up this recipe, as I definitely won’t be making these again, but here it is in case any of you are far braver and more skilled than I. That would not be hard.

Next week is chocolate week. THANK GOD. At least if I make something that’s a complete mess it still has a good chance of tasting good because, you know, chocolate. Did you hear that bit in the teaser about staggered start times for the technical? I think that must be soufflés, or something else that has to be eaten pretty much immediately. Obviously something horrifically complicated, because that’s the way things are now.

Now I have to go and make two batches of cupcakes in two hours. Argh.


Frosted Walnut Layer Cake – Bake Off Bake Along Week 1

I think one of the best things about the internet is that it connects people who might otherwise feel like they are alone. If you have always wanted to re-enact the Battle of Hastings dressed as a Death Eater while reciting the closing speech from The Breakfast Club, then you can find the only other person in the world who wants to do that too, and make it happen. When I was a child, the internet made me realise how big the world is, and yet made it feel so much smaller at the same time.

Over the last week, the internet has reminded me that I am not the only person who is worryingly excited by the return of the Great British Bake Off to our screens. And yes, I do mean ‘worryingly’ excited. I spent the afternoon and evening last Wednesday in such heightened anticipation that I think I scared James a bit.

How can I explain the joy of the Bake Off to those who don’t watch it? For me, it’s a guaranteed hour of pure happiness and escape from everything else that’s making me stressed. The Bake Off of is an overwhelmingly positive programme. You can see that Mary and Paul, and Mel and Sue, really want the contestants to do well. It’s light-hearted, and funny, and charming. It’s about people doing the thing they love as well as they can. It’s about creating things that are delicious, beautiful, and inventive. It’s about baking, for god’s sake.


Anyway, the show started last week, and it made me just as happy as it always does. I am going to go on the record now, by the way, and say that my bet on the final three is Marie, Tamal, and Flora. Just putting it out there.

I will be doing the #bakeoffbakealong for as long as I can manage this year, before my schedule absolutely cripples me. The choice this week was between a Madeira cake for the signature challenge, a walnut cake for the technical, or a Black Forest gateaux for the show-stopper. For me, I want the bake along to be an excuse to try recipes I wouldn’t normally bake. I made a variation on a Madeira cake mere days ago, and I need absolutely no encouragement to make a Black Forest gateaux. So, down walnut way we went.


Source: This recipe is widely available now that it’s been used on the Bake Off – see here – but I actually used the version in my copy of Mary Berry’s Baking Bible.

Notes: The recipe in the book is actually a bit different from the recipe that the contestants used in the show. Firstly, it doesn’t call for buttercream, simply advising you to use the frosting to sandwich the layers together as well as to coat the cake. Secondly, it doesn’t call for the walnuts to be caramelised. I was planning to do that anyway, but, as you can see, I didn’t in the end. I was making this cake to take to a party and we had to rush out the door: I simply ran out of time. Hard experience has taught me that you shouldn’t try and rush caramel, so I left it rather than risking burning myself dramatically.

Even though the recipe I was working from didn’t call for buttercream, and the bakers on the show used a plain vanilla buttercream, I went for an espresso buttercream. Just because, really. I felt like I wanted something to break up all the sweetness of the cake a bit. While I am happy with this decision taste-wise, it does mean the layers of the cake looked less distinctive, because the buttercream was a very similar colour to the sponge.

I am going to called this a marshmallow frosting, rather than a boiled frosting. This is partly because is tastes like marshmallow and partly because ‘boiled frosting’ sounds horrid.


for the cakes

225g butter, softened, plus extra for greasing
225g caster sugar
4 large eggs
225g self-raising flour
2 tsp baking powder
100g walnuts, finely chopped, plus extra for decorating

for the buttercream

100g butter, softened
200g icing sugar
2 teaspoons of espresso powder dissolved in 1 tbsp boiling water

for the frosting

2 large egg whites
350g caster sugar
4 tbsp water
¼ tsp cream of tartar


  1. Preheat your oven to 160C/ 140c fan/ gas 3 and grease and line three 20cm sandwich tins with baking paper. I don’t have three 20cm tins (or any three matching tins, for that matter), so I had to do the baking in two stages.
  2. Whack all your cake ingredients in a large bowl and beat them together with an electric whisk. The book specifies this all-in-one method, which is what I used, and it worked fine. That’s why you have two teaspoons of baking powder – you need extra rise because you’re not getting as much air into it through multiple beating stages. Divide your batter into three equal amounts and bake your cakes for 25-30 minutes.
  3. Once the cakes are completely cool, make your buttercream, Beat your butter and icing sugar together until smooth and fluffy, then beat in your espresso. Spread half of it over your bottom sponge, and top with your second sponge. Spread the second half onto the top of your second sponge, and top with the third.
  4. For the frosting, measure all of the frosting ingredients into a glass bowl set over a pan of simmering water and beat for 10-15 minutes with an electric whisk. This bit is really boring, but you do have to do it to make sure the frosting isn’t grainy with sugar. Check it about ten minutes in by rubbing a bit between your thumb and forefinger and seeing if you can feel sugar grains. It should be smooth.
  5. Cover the top and sides of your cake with the icing. You can either swirl it or leave it smooth(ish), depending on your preference. Decorate your cake with walnuts (or do it properly and caramelise some, if you are better at time management than me).