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I've had 'cupcake heaven' by Susannah Blake for a few years now. I picked it up one Sunday morning wandering around John Lewis, and so I paid the full retail price for it which is £12.99. I normally buy books from Amazon so as not to pay the full retail price however whilst I was leafing through the baking books in John Lewis I was really tempted to try out a few of the recipes in cupcake heaven and so I popped it in my basket along with my other purchases, headed to the till to pay, and then called in at Sainsbury's on the way home for the ingredients that I needed.
It's a soft back book full of, as the title would suggest, heavenly cupcake recipes. The book is very beautifully presented and is lovely to just leaf through and browse. Each double page spread contains the recipe on one page and a full page colour photograph of the finished cupcakes on the other page. I always prefer to buy cookbooks that have photographs accompanying the recipes, especially cupcakes or baking books, so that I can see what the finished result is supposed to look like.
'cupcake heaven' contains more than 60 cupcake recipes, divided into five sections; simple cupcakes, celebration cupcakes, indulgent cupcakes, cupcakes for special diets, and kids cupcakes, along with a short introductory section containing information on equipment, ingredients, decorating and embellishments, and serving suggestions.
The simple cupcakes section shows how easy it is to rustle up a plateful of gorgeous cupcakes. It has irresistible flavoured cupcakes in simple yet delicious combinations.
The simple cupcake recipes include: apple and cinnamon cupcakes, carrot and cardamom cupcakes, cherry and marzipan cupcakes, lavender cupcakes, creamy coconut cupcakes, orange and poppy seed cupcakes, blueberry and lemon cupcakes, maple and pecan cupcakes, rosewater cupcakes, apricot honey and pine nut cupcakes, gingerbread cupcakes with lemon icing, passion fruit butterfly cupcakes, and pistachio cupcakes.
One of the recipes that I specifically bought the book for is in this section; the passion fruit butterfly cupcakes. These were the first cupcakes that I made from the book, that same afternoon, and they didn't disappoint. They are quite expensive to make as you need 9 passion fruits to make a dozen cupcakes, but they are so worth it, they are really light and fluffy and really intensely fruity. The frosting is made with mascarpone and is gorgeous, it's light and creamy and not too sweet, just intensely fruity yet again. They even smell really fruity due to all those passion fruits that they contain! These are a staple in our house, and I'm always getting asked to bake them.
I also love the blueberry and lemon cupcakes. These use polenta in the cupcake batter, which gives the cupcakes a different kind of texture to them, a kind of a 'bite' to them I would say. The polenta ensures that the cupcakes have a gorgeous rich yellow colour, and they're then studded with the juicy blueberries. The frosting is a light and zesty lemony cream cheese topping, topped with more blueberries and some lemon zest, which compliments the cupcakes themselves perfectly. They taste absolutely gorgeous, the blueberries and the lemon go together perfectly.
I also love the orange and poppy seed cupcakes. These are really simple cupcakes, yet they taste lovely, really tangy and orangey. They are topped with a simple orange and mascarpone frosting which makes the cupcakes seem a little bit more indulgent as an after dinner treat. Sometimes though I bake these and just leave the frosting off, and then have these little fruity orange cupcakes for breakfast, as a kind of breakfast muffin I guess.
My other favourite recipe from this section is the apple and cinnamon cupcakes. I think that apples and cinnamon are such a perfect combination anyway, and it works perfectly in these little cupcakes. I do up the quantity of cinnamon in these from 1/2 tsp to 1 tsp, purely because I love the taste of cinnamon so much, it doesn't necessarily need it - it's just my personal taste preference. The cupcakes themselves are moist and tender with the apple, and heady with the warmth of the cinnamon, and literally just melt in your mouth. They are topped with a sticky and slightly sweet sour cream frosting which works perfectly with the crumbly cupcakes. They are topped with fresh blackberries, which does work really well, but as blackberries are not always in season I just leave these off if I can't get them.
The celebration cupcakes section has lots of show stopping, special occasion treats, and it covers everything from weddings and christenings, to Christmas and Halloween, there's the perfect cupcake idea to cover any event. Cupcakes are really popular now as opposed to one larger occasion cake, and this section will definitely help you out should you need to bake cupcakes for a special occasion.
The celebration cupcake recipes include: wedding cupcakes, dark chocolate wedding cupcakes, sparkling diamond cupcakes, spring flower cupcakes, purple passion cupcakes, raspberry love-heart cupcakes, pear and cranberry christmas cupcakes, starry christmas cupcakes, halloween cupcakes, peanut butter and raspberry jelly party cupcakes, chocolate brownie birthday cupcakes, marble cupcakes, vanilla and white chocolate baby cupcakes, christening cupcakes, and firework cupcakes.
The other two recipes that I initially bought the book for are both in this section; the halloween cupcakes and the raspberry love-heart cupcakes.
The halloween cupcakes are made with either pumpkin or butternut squash in the batter. I absolutely adore pumpkin, and so figured that I would like these, I don't just like them I love them, in fact I think that they might just be my favourite cupcakes in the whole book. They are kind of sweet, yet kind of spicy at the same time, and they are very rich, yet very moreish. They are very simply topped with just white and dark chocolate skewered into a cobweb shape, which I think goes really well with the sweet and spicy cupcake underneath, it doesn't overpower it which can sometimes happen with frostings, it just compliments it. I make these every halloween now, and I could actually just eat these year round.
The raspberry love-heart cupcakes are just very simple lemon flavoured cupcakes, but what really turns them into something special is the gorgeous zesty lemon cream topping made with creme fraiche and lemon curd (I always use my home made lemon curd) and fresh raspberries. You can bake these in a heart shaped cupcake tin if you want to go the whole hog with the hearts theme, or they work equally as well when baked in normal bun tins.
The indulgent cupcakes section contains lots of rich and decadent, indulgent and very mouth watering cupcake recipes.
The indulgent cupcakes recipes include: victoria cupcakes, rocky road cupcakes, lemon meringue cupcakes, raspberry trifle cupcakes, gooey chocolate and hazelnut cupcakes, vanilla and white chocolate cheesecake cupcakes, florentine cupcakes, fresh fruit cupcakes, choca-mocha cupcakes, tropical cupcakes, coffee and praline cupcakes, black forest cupcakes, chocolate and ginger cupcakes, and banoffee cupcakes.
To be honest all of the recipes in this section are delicious, they are all very rich and decadent and probably more suited to after dinner treats, or dinner party cupcakes, rather than just everyday morning snack kind of cupcakes. They are more like a dessert in a cupcake, rather than a cupcake, if that makes sense.
The cupcakes that I probably bake the most often from this section are the lemon meringue cupcakes, the choca-mocha cupcakes, the black forest cupcakes, and the banoffee cupcakes. I really only tend to bake something from this section specifically to use as a dessert after a meal.
Cupcakes for special diets:
The cupcakes for special diets section contains plenty of recipes to cover most diets; dairy free cupcakes, nut free cupcakes, gluten free cupcakes and low fat cupcakes.
The cupcakes for special diets recipes include: courgette pistachio and lime cupcakes, chocolate cream cheese cupcakes, rich fruit cupcakes, low-fat pumpkin and ricotta cupcakes, dark chocolate cupcakes, orange and almond cupcakes, banana honey and pecan cupcakes, prune and armagnac cupcakes, meringue sprinkle cupcakes, and coffee and walnut cupcakes.
We don't have any specific dietary requirements in our house, and I don't need to bake for anyone that does, so this isn't a section that I generally turn to.
However one recipe that I do regularly make from this section is the low-fat pumpkin and ricotta cupcakes, primarily because of my love of pumpkin. These are really delicious and don't taste low fat at all, they're not as rich and as sweet as the other pumpkin cupcakes in the book that I love - the halloween cupcakes, but they are still moist and delicious and tasty. I'm not too keen on the icing that they're paired with in the book, just an orange juice and icing sugar topping, it's much too sweet for me. So I generally just use a cream cheese frosting on these which I think works much better, or a lot of the time I tend to just leave them plain, they're equally as delicious plain as they are when paired with my cream cheese frosting.
The recipes in the kids cupcakes section are all very quick and easy to make, and are more than suitable for kids to get involved with and to make with the help of an adult. I very often bake something out of this section with my God Daughter or our little nephew. The accompanying photographs are big and bright and clear so kids can choose the cupcakes that they want to make, and they can then attempt to copy the photographs when icing their cupcakes.
This kids cupcakes recipes include: pink piggy cupcakes, number cupcakes, spotty cupcakes, do-it-yourself party cupcakes, bird's nest cupcakes, vanilla buttercream cupcakes, candy cupcakes, chocolate chip cupcakes, hidden treasure cupcakes, ice cream cupcakes, raspberry ripple cupcakes (which are the cupcakes featured on the front cover of the book), flower cupcakes and special name cupcakes.
My God Daughters favourite recipes from this section are the chocolate chip cupcakes and the bird's nest cupcakes - which we've actually just made together this weekend for Easter. And our little nephews favourite recipes from this section are the do-it-yourself party cupcakes and the pink piggy cupcakes.
All of the recipes that I've tried, which is probably about 50%, have all been easy to follow, quick to make, have turned out perfectly, and more importantly have been delicious. All of the recipes state that they make a dozen cupcakes, and the recipes are spot on, I've made a dozen cupcakes each time with every recipe that I've tried. What's with some cookbooks nowadays that make random quantities, 18 or 10 or some other random amount. I like to fill a bun tray with a dozen paper cases and bake a dozen cupcakes. I hate it when I make attempt a new recipe for 'a dozen' cupcakes and I end up getting more or less out of the batter.
I find that I use the recipes and photographs in cupcake heaven just as inspiration and a staring point sometimes and then I adapt them to suit my needs or tastes. The photographs are stunning and they do actually inspire you to create your own little masterpieces. I do use cupcake heaven quite a lot, whether I'm actually following one of the recipes to the letter, or whether I'm just getting inspiration and ideas and then heading off on my own tangent. It's a lovely book to just leaf through and dip in and out of, and I'd definitely recommend it.