Firework cupcakes for Bonfire night

So. My latest challenge was to bake some cupcakes for a lovely friend’s party on Guy Fawkes night. I was toying between bonfire cupcakes and firework cupcakes and I wanted something to incorporate spun sugar or toffee decorations. I also wanted something cheeky and surprising inside the cupcakes. The conclusion I came to was chocolate fudge cupcakes, with salted dulche de leche in the middle, chocolate butter cream frosting and sugar firework decorations.
This is how the trial batch came out:

chocolate firework cupcakes with dulche de leche

The chocolate cupcake is the same recipe for the chocolate fudge cake last post, recipe here. Dulche de leche allegedly originated in Argentina in the early 1800’s, and is basically sweetened condensed milk, boiled down to a lovely thick caramel. I had always done this by piercing the tin of condensed milk, putting it in a pan of water and waiting hours and hours and hours until it was done. Recently, I found a Hairy Bikers’ recipe that cuts this time right down. Open the tin, pour into a shallow baking tray, cover with foil, put this into a larger tray of water (a bain marie) and into the oven at 220 degrees (centigrade), for one to two hours. When its thick and toffee coloured, whisk it together and its done. I love the unexpected zing of salt in the caramel – so I whisk some in when its cool – use good sea salt, I prefer Maldons.

The spun sugar decorations were tricky. There is a very good tutorial by cooking4chumps here. Basically, take 140ml water, pour over 140g sugar in a pan, add some liquid glucose and heat. Make sure every single little molecule of sugar is dissolved in the water before it comes to the boil, or you risk crystallisation. Make sure everything you use is extremely clean (or you risk crystallisation). You want to bring it up to 160C – check with a candy thermometer. Do not let it get over 160 – or guess what – you risk crystallisation. A couple of drops of cold water can help to stop it continuing to heat up. Then I simply took a spoon and made “firework shapes” on a piece of baking paper, and waited for them to cool. Some I sprinkled with glitter sugar sprinkles.

Once the cakes were baked and cool, I piped in the dulche de leche (or you can core them with a teaspoon and put a teaspoon of the caramel in the hole before putting the cake core back on top). Then I piped them with the butter cream frosting and carefully put the sugar fireworks on top.

A couple of weeks later when I had to make them for real, I decided that I wanted to use pop rocks as well to give them even more of a zing. But pop rocks don’t pop if they have been wet at all – to use in cooking you have to coat them in melted chocolate first. I put some chocolate covered pop rocks under the dulche de leche in the cupcakes, and instead of butter cream I used a whipped ganache frosting. The sugar decorations didn’t turn out as well as the test batch (typical) nor did they travel as well as I’d have liked, but they sure did taste good!

Chocolate Mud Cake Recipe

A few weeks ago a lovely friend of mine had a birthday. Hmmmm…. what to bring to the party?

chocolate mud cake

I know! A super-moist chocolate mud cake. Complete with chocolate fondant covered pigs, whipped chocolate ganache frosting and chocolate sand! I had seen a chocolate cake with pig decorations before – and with the use of google images found some amazing cakes to base this one on. (Thanks fellow cake makers!) I think it turned out quite well. Here’s how I did it.

To make the whipped chocolate ganache: break up 300g of dark chocolate into a heatproof bowl. Meanwhile, heat 300ml of double cream to a simmer point. Then pour the hot cream over the chocolate. Wait for a while and then stir until the chocolate is melted completely. Then whisk on a medium speed until its fluffy enough for ya.

To make the chocolate sand I bought the driest and crumbly-est chocolate cookies I could find (mine were chocolate chip – you can see the chips in the photo) broke them up and put them in a food processor for a quick blitz until they transformed into chocolate sand. Magic!

Now, the pigs. I love the look of sugar craft decorations on cakes – there is some amazing work out there – but I don’t always want to eat these amazing creations. That’s just too much sugar paste or fondant, and to me it can ruin the taste of the cake. So these little piggies contain a surprise. A Lindt chocolate ball of joy in the centre. I just colored some ready made sugar fondant pink, rolled it out and cut out circles to wrap the chocolates in. Pinch the edges together and then roll them around in your palms for a bit and they smooth down quite nicely. Ears are little triangles, noses just a blob, and tails tiny little snakes rolled between your fingertips. Two small black frosting eyes – and done.

The cake is sandwiched with more whipped chocolate ganache. It tasted pretty darned good, and the surprise chocloate pigs stole the show.

Here’s the recipe for the cake:

Chocolate Mud Cake

It’s moist. So, so moist. And choclatey. The recipe makes two 10-11 inch cakes.

Serves: 16-20 Preparation time: 15 mins Cooking time: 30-35


230g butter (room temperature)
230g caster sugar
230g light brown sugar
8 medium eggs (room temperature)
340g self-raising flour
100g cocoa powder
2 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda
generous pinch of salt
10 tablespoons creme fraiche (or sour cream)
2 teaspoons good vanilla extract


1. Pre-heat the oven to 180C or 350F and prepare two 10 or 11 inch cake tins with baking parchment.
2. Sift dry ingredients together.
3. Cream butter and sugar until pale and fluffy.
4. Gradually beat in the eggs. If it looks like curdling add two tablespoons from the flour mixture.
5. Fold in the flour mixture, and creme fraiche, alternating between the two -starting and ending with the flour.
6. Divide evenly between tins and gently encourage the mix to the sides.
7. Bake for 30-35 mins, until they smell ready and a skewer comes out clean.
8. Let cool 5 mins in tins, then turn on to a wire rack to cool.

Fabulous Focaccia Recipe

While this is not technically cake, it was sooooo good that I just had to share the recipe. There’s nothing like fresh bread straight out of the oven. Inspired by the BBC’s Great British Bake Off Masterclass this was the first time I had attempted Focaccia. Turned out well!

So here’s the recipe:

This is an amazingly wet dough so don’t get scared – here’s a link to a useful demonstration on kneading with oil by Paul Hollywood. However, your dough will be much wetter than the one in the video.

Serves: 4 Preparation time: 2+ hours Cooking time: 30 mins – 1 hour


500g/1lb 2oz strong white bread flour
2 teaspoons salt
2 x 7g sachets dried easy blend yeast
2 tbsp olive oil
400ml/14fl oz cold water
good olive oil, for drizzling
sea salt


1. Place the flour, salt, yeast, olive oil and 300ml of the water into a large bowl. Gently stir form a dough.
2. Knead the dough in the bowl for five minutes, gradually adding the remaining water. It will get very wet. Don’t panic, this is correct.
3. Stretch the dough by hand in the bowl, tuck the sides into the centre, turning the bowl. Knead this way for five minutes.
4. Tip the dough onto an oiled work surface and continue kneading for five more minutes. Return the dough to the bowl, cover and leave to rise until doubled in size.
5.Line a large baking tray with baking paper. Your tray will need a little height in the sides to it, don’t use a completely flat one.
6. Take the dough and tip it onto the baking sheet, firmly encouraging it to the corners.
7. Preheat the oven to 220C/425F.
7. Wait. Until the dough proves – which will be about an hour. Here’s a picture. You can see all those lovely air bubbles from the yeast doing its thing, which gives the Focaccia its distinctive texture.

focaccia proving
8. Make finger marks in the dough, top with salt, rosemary, sun-dried tomatoes, slivers of garlic etc. Douse liberally with olive oil.
9. Bake for about 35 – 45 mins until done. Drizzle with more olive oil and serve while still warm.