Friday 24 February 2012

Cupcake heaven - stitched and baked!

And now for something completely different. Cup cakes! I have been making edible and non-edible varieties. The ones intended for consumption came courtesy of a recipe in The Hummingbird Bakery Cake Days: Recipes to make every day special, by Tarek Malouf, which I came across when I visited a friend who had been given a copy for Christmas. It really is a beautifully produced book, with wonderful pictures, and some lovely ideas for cup cakes, muffins, and something called whoopie pies, which I hadn’t encountered before. Conversation came to an end while I copied some of the recipes and sampled her Coca Cola cakes.
My cup cakes - next time I'll use a recipe from an old book.
 Today I finally had a go myself and the cakes are wonderful, but the icing was too runny, so I added more icing sugar, and it ended up much too sweet and not the right texture, so I tried piping it on to the cakes, to see if it improved matters, but it didn’t.  Anyway, I topped them off with carob-coated raisins rather than the suggested Coca Cola sweets, and I am sure they will get eaten. 
The '50s housewife decorating her version of
of cupcakes (from the Good Housekeeping
Cookery Compendium)
And lovely though the Hummingbird book is, some of the recipes look a bit fiddly for what my mother scornfully refers to as  jumped-up fairy cakes, and I haven’t even tried her with whoopie pies, which appear to be a variation of the sponge drops she used to bake for my brother and I, sandwiched together with buttercream or home-made jam.  
Sponge drops : were these an early form
of whoopie pie? (from the Good Housekeeping
Cookery Compendium)
Anyway, I’ve ended up sitting reading the Good Housekeeping Cookery Compendium, published by Waverley in 1954, when my grandmother bought it as a present for Mum, and she gave me when my father died. It may not have the allure of modern celebrity cookbooks, but it’s packed with basic information; fool-proof, fail-safe recipes, and scores of pictures, including some in colour, and it’s one of the books I fall back on time and time again when cooking.  It’s not just the recipes that I find so appealing, but the association with childhood. As I turned the tattered pages today I swear I could smell ginger biscuits baking in the oven, and egg curry on the stove! And it made me recall my very first efforts at cooking, when I was so small I had to stand on a chair to reach the kitchen table – and the evidence of a terrible accident involving an egg can still be seen on the opening pages of the section about small cakes (queen cakes, assorted kisses, honey buns, melting moments and chocolate cakes).
Children's sponge cakes also seem similar to
modern whoopie pies.  (from the Good Housekeeping
Cookery Compendium)
Oddly enough, a pristine copy of the book was recently donated to Oxfam Books and Music, in Lichfield (where, as I’ve said before, I am a volunteer) and I did wonder if it was time to replace the old copy, but it wouldn’t be the same because it wouldn’t have that connection with my past.
A plate full of goodies. Tiny 'bottle-top' muffins, and
colourful cup cakes - actually they look more like those
whoopie pies, which really intrigue me - it's such an odd name.
And talking of Oxfam leads me to the non-edible cupcakes. I have been stitching them in pink and purple felt, as requested by a fellow volunteer who is also busy sewing. Decorated with beads, buttons and embroidery, they will make the window look decorative for International Women’s Day on March 8 – and we also hope to sell a few (they make nice pincushions) and boost Oxfam’s funds.
Balancing act! Put a felt cupcake on a cake case
and it looks quite eye-catching.
The charity aids women all over the globe by helping to improve education and maternity care. It also provides support for women to establish businesses in their community, so they can provide better opportunities for their children – details about the work being undertaken can be found at 


  1. Old cookbooks have been a part of my reading stack for the past year or so. Mrs Beeton, medieval France, old New England. So many good resources online for antique recipes, and a lot of fun to read. The mini sponge cakes look like something children would love, without the preservatives of the grocery store versions.

  2. Sponge drops are the food of the gods and so much more interesting than the whoopie. I'v recently done a blog entry on the sponge drop that might intrtest you.