Working evening shifts for the entirety of the Easter weekend made me want to drown my sorrows in chocolate. Thankfully, I set my heart on that chocolate being in the form of hollow eggs, and when I went to fill up my car with petrol on Sunday, there were none fitting that bill. I saved me from myself through punctuating the weekend with beautiful treats and bike rides.
At times like these, where I feel like I have no control over my schedule, I find it immensely satisfying to be able to produce something beautiful to share with other people. It’s really comforting to have an objective, aesthetically pleasing reminder that I’ve done something with my day before having my social life taken away from me (by which I mean watching the Bachelor NZ with my flatmates). It’s like scheduling a Skype date with an overseas friend in the morning instead of being able to vent with my flatmates over a glass of wine in the evenings. Cooking for people makes me feel like I have a purpose (that purpose being doing it for the love), and when I can’t make dinner for my boyfriend, cupcakes will just have to do.
Shift work is probably the most effective spanner in the works of attempting to find a balanced life, and the last four months have been a challenge reflective of that. Evening shifts make me defensively schedule my mornings – I have a bit of a mental checklist I feel compelled to tick off to ensure I make the most of the day I have (fresh air, bacon at breakfast, call Mum for a wahmbulance session, etc.). Even if I work until midnight, I try to get up to see my flatmates at breakfast, or else a week might go by without us crossing paths. Perhaps I am ultimately grateful for the fact it has forced me to actively seek out the things that are important to me, because it would certainly be easy enough to wile away my time sleeping in until noon and binge watching TV series.
I’m often asked how I have the time to bring in baking so regularly to work, and it’s simply because I make time for it. I plan what I’m going to make through incessantly daydreaming about flavour combinations and I tend to always have the ingredients on hand – often coming up with new things based around what I have lying around result in the best things. In this case, the not-so-secret ingredient here is tahini (here’s looking at you, Ottolenghi and Molly Yeh), to create a beautiful nutty flavour to offset the sweetness of the buttercream. The grated chocolate is such a fun addition – and certainly one you absolutely can’t go wrong with. Effectively it’s just a simple adaptation of the same cupcake recipe I have been using for nearly five (!) years, and takes less than an hour from start to finish because mini cupcakes cool so darn quickly.
stracciatella cupcakes with tahini fudge frosting
- 125g butter, softened
- 125g caster sugar
- 2 free range, room temperature eggs
- 125g self-raising flour
- 2 tbsp milk
- 70g dark chocolate, grated
For the tahini fudge frosting:
- 125g butter, softened
- 330g icing/powdered sugar
- 50g cocoa
- 50g tahini
- 1 tbsp milk
Just because it
- Whoppers malt eggs
- Mini Malteser bunnies
- “fried eggs” made with splodges of melted white chocolate and Reese’s pieces left to harden on parchment paper, completed with halved Whopper eggs
- Preheat the oven to 350F/180C bake. Line as many mini cupcake tins as you have (unfortunately I only have two trays to make 24 at a time) with cupcake cases.
- Beat the butter and sugar on high speed until fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, along with the vanilla essence with the final addition. Slowly mix in the flour, then add enough milk to make the batter a smooth, droppable consistency. Beat in the grated chocolate until just combined through.
- Spoon into the cupcake cases using two teaspoons so they are ~2/3 full. Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes until the tops are rounded and golden. Remove to cool on a wire rack for five minutes before removing from the cases.
- While the cupcakes are baking and cooling, prep the frosting. Beat the butter on high speed, then gradually add the sugar and cocoa until smooth. Beat in the tahini, and finally a little milk to make for a smoother consistency.
- I always bring my cupcakes in egg cartons because they fit perfectly and add to the surprise! When they are cool, I transfer them to the cartons to decorate. Using a 1M Wilton piping tip fitted to a bag, swirl a wee easter nest atop the cupcakes before decorating with one of the assortment of toppings!
- These are best served as fresh as possible (the day of or morning after, ideally!).