These last couple of months have been all about stretching myself creatively. I have been working hard at my painting for the Pay It Forward Projects (no spoilers yet... I'm in the meaty part at the middle now) and have delivered two of them now. These have been great fun to work on, and I am doing things with them that I have never done before. I have been mixing my own colours, and in the current project I am even working on my own designs! This sort of thing terrifies me, as I am much more comfortable following someone's instructions.
This need for instruction spills over into my cooking. I love a good recipe and have a cupboard full of cook books that are well loved and definitely well used. I'm usually just not game enough to trust myself to make something without following a recipe (well unless it is a meal that I make all the time, and even then it takes me many attempts before I branch out on my own). This is particularly true of baking, because it is a science. It involves exact measures, correct ratios of liquid to dry ingredients, perfect cooking temperatures etc. My mum is great at baking, her biscuits are the best ever, and she never uses a recipe or measures anything. She just works on instinct. Did I mention that it terrifies me?
Anyway, as you have seen in previous posts, my kids love a good cupcake. I have made many different types of cupcakes this year as I have a cook book dedicated to the Perfect Cupcake (what a surprise!). I've made Lemon and Coconut; Triple Chocolate; Vanilla; Pineapple, and most recently Pear cupcakes. With the exception of the pineapple and the pear ones, these have all been made by following a recipe to the letter. However, the last two I made by altering one of these recipes just slightly. They worked ok, but really, you couldn't notice the addition of the pineapple or the pear - the flavours just aren't strong enough.
What happened last night with the Pear cupcakes surprised me though. While I was eating it, I started to think about what I could do to bring out the flavour more, or what would even be a better flavour. I thought that the pear would work really well with a ginger spice cake, rather than a regular cake. I don't have a recipe for that, so I realised I would have to wing it! My sister suggested having larger pieces of the fruit, rather than the puree that the recipe called for. So with these thoughts in mind, I whipped up another batch this afternoon. I took the base recipe, added the spices I would put into gingerbread (cinnamon, nutmeg, mixed spice, ginger and cocoa) and then put some roughly chopped stewed apples into it. I am really pleased with how they turned out and I have put the recipe in the other page. It was a very light spice, so if you wanted a more heavily spiced cake, you would need to alter the quantities to suit your tastes. I've put a glaze icing on them and sprinkled them with dusting chocolate. My kids had them warm as a dessert, and are looking forward to taking them to school tomorrow for their morning snack.
Being such an easy recipe, I will be sure to make them again, and might even play with some other flavours now that I am more confident. Probably the biggest highlight for me though? I made the recipe completely from memory and invention. Not a cook book in sight!
Note: It was Mother's Day last Sunday and as I said earlier, I made Pineapple and Lemon/Coconut cupcakes. What I didn't say was that I decorated them and took them to dinner. Here's what I did with them.