I have to admit that I wasn't feeling particularly revved up to do Random Acts of Cupcake today. Even though I'd made the cupcakes, I was wondering whether or not I could be bothered enough to pound the pavements in search of a random recipient, especially after my four rejections last week (a Random Acts of Cupcake record).

Nevertheless, I got my act together and got out there, which turned out to only be no further than a couple of steps outside my front gate because this time, my random recipient greeted me.
This is Gregory. I've actually known him for a few years now, so he's not a stranger. However, he was the first person I came across today in my quest to perform a Random Act of Cupcake.

I used to teach Gregory's wife, a lovely sweet lady called Noel. I don't see Noel very often, as she spends a lot of time at home painting. But it's not unusual to bump into Gregory around town, so I figured he should be this week's random recipient.

Gregory was pretty happy with the random cupcake thing and cheerfully posed for the photo. He said he'd give the cake to Noel, but if it were me, my resolve wouldn't last and I'd end up scoffing it down, because these bad boys are seriously yummy.
These are pistachio and cardamom cupcakes. I've actually made them for a previous Random Act of Cupcake (for more details, see The humble pistachio, 24 March 2010), so I'm not going to bother with the recipe here.

The reason for the repeat performance (apart from the fact that they are my all-time favourite cupcakes and never fail to win accolades from my cupcake-consuming friends) is that the book club I go to is having a Turkish theme tonight, to tie in with one of the books we've read recently, The Museum of Innocence by Orhan Pamuk. The person hosting the meeting (who happens to be a most awesome caterer) asked if one of us could bring baklava.  I don't think it can be procured in my town, or rather, I don't think I can be bothered tracking it down and I certainly can't be bothered with faffing about with all that pastry etc. So instead, I've come up with the next best thing, a slightly toned-down baklava flavoured cupcake. And boy are they lezzetli (that's Turkish for delicious, apparently).

Anyway, on that random linguistic note, I'll bid you hoşçakal. And I hope you have a wonderfully perfect random week ahead of you.

There's a recipe I've been dying to try out and yesterday I had the perfect excuse to crack it open and give it a go. The excuse came in the form a friend's request for, and I quote, "black fashionista/couture/avante garde cupcakes" for his up-coming birthday party this weekend.

What could be more jus-jus than Champagne Jelly Cupcakes, I thought, as I eagerly thumbed my way through that sacred cupcake tome, Cupcakes: a fine selection of sweet treats. My friend doesn't drink, so I substituted the booze with a very satisfactory alcohol-removed sparkling cuvee by the name of Edenvale (available from Woolies supermarket for the princely sum of $7.99).

I must say that the results were pleasingly pleasing. Although, while the couture criteria has been satisfied, they're patently not black. I thought about a sprinkling of black caviar on top, but I don't think my budget can stretch that far, at least, not to the required 31 cupcakes. But it's an intriguing concept, no?

So, as an alternative, and also because I cannot find black food colouring ANYWHERE (and I don't want to mess around with mixing red, blue and yellow because I'll probably end up with blecchhh as opposed to black), I'm going to experiment a little over the next couple of days with making cola jelly. Wish me luck.

Anyway, here's how you make non-alcoholic champagne jelly cupcakes.

For the cupcakes you will need:
150g chopped, unsalted butter (softened)
115g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence
2 eggs
185g SR flour, sifted
35g ground almonds
125ml milk
130g frozen blackberries

For the champagne jelly you will need:
750ml sparkling wine (I used non-alcoholic bubbles)
2 tbsp powdered gelatine
165g sugar
blackberries for decoration

This is what you do:
1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C and line your cupcake tines with about 25 cases.

2. Beat the butter, sugar and vanilla essence until light and creamy.  The add the eggs, one at a time.

3. Fold in the sifted flour and ground almonds alternately with the milk and blackberries.

4. Fill each case only halfway full with the mixture. Don't put too much in, or else there won't be enough room for the champagne jelly.

5. Bake for about 12 minutes or so. Leave in the tins to cool.

6. To make the jelly, put 500ml of the sparkling wine in a bowl and allow the bubbles to settle. Then sprinkle the gelatine over the top.

7. Put the rest of the sparkling wine in a saucepan along with the sugar. Stir over a low heat until the sugar crystals are dissolved.

8. Take off the heat. Add the gelatine mixture and stir until all of the gelatine is dissolved.

9. Put the jelly mixture in the fridge until it is set. Leaving overnight is ideal,

10. Decorate the cupcakes with the jelly and the blackberries.

I know, I know. They're not blackberries on top. I ran out, so I used frozen cherries instead.

Now the question is, I wonder who will be game to try one? Time to hit the streets in search of a random recipient.

Some time later...

And the answer is not many takers. The first person I approached, a young, dread-locked fellow, looked as though he held good random recipient potential, but alas, when I offered him the cupcake he shifted about as uncomfortably as one with ants in one's pants. To give him credit though, he did offer up his co-worker as a guinea pig. However, said co-worker also refused. At this point, I offered the cupcake to two groundscrew workers standing nearby having a smoke break. They declined saying that they'd just finished their smoko (hmmm, I don't think so, otherwise they wouldn't be standing around still smoking and chatting now, would they?),

So I sighed and then sighed again (known in random parlance as "sigh, double sigh") and wandered off in the direction of the mall, pretty sure that I'd be spending a fair bit of time off-loading this week's random cupcake.

Luckily, though, I came across this bloke.
Meet Colin. He's from Alice Springs originally, but lives in Port Augusta. At the moment, he's in town visiting family. Colin seemed like a nice, affable bloke. He accepted my cupcake without so much as a squirm, politely thanked me and then asked if I did the random cupcake thing every day. I told him that it was a random thing, so no, unfortunately I didn't. But it did get me thinking how cool it would be if everyone took it in turns to give random cupcakes away. That way, there would be a random act of cupcake being performed somewhere in the world to somebody, every single day. And wouldn't that make the world a better place.

So with that thought, I'll bid you au revoir. Until we meet again in the blogosphere, may you randomly give and receive.
It's been a somewhat extended hiatus from Random Acts of Cupcakes, thanks to a month-long holiday in China. Maybe holiday is the wrong word for the experience I just had. Because China is not really the kind of place one goes if one is looking for a restful time away. Not wanting to reduce the place to a stereotype (but I will anyway), it's loud, it's crowded and the skies are seriously, scarily polluted. However, if what you're seeking is a random adventure, then you've hit Random HQ. Weird and wonderful (and icky) things can and do happen and that's one of the reasons why this country has found a special place in my soul, not unlike a parasitic nematode burrowing into its host's heart.

China made me realise just how deliciously exciting randomness can be and just how much I miss that feeling of being simultaneously bewildered, bemused and begrossed-out. 

So it was nice to get back on the random horse again a la Random Acts of Cupcake. I have to admit, I didn't strictly go random - I chose this week's recipient because he had a kind and friendly look about him.
This is Nick. He's a Territorian (note hat), but oddly doesn't possess the bushy beard which seems to be the requisite accessory for many Territorian gentlemen. I suspect Nick is an original fellow. In fact, I know he is an original, given the fantastic poem he posted on this blog about our random act of cupcake exchange (see comment on previous blog A lemon a day...), and which I've reproduced here:


While strolling through the Alice one day
Without a thought of malice I say

When much to my surprise
A girl with lovely eyes

Came up and had just this to say

“My name is Alex and I ain’t no sloven
I’ve baked a cup cake its straight from the oven

Flour and sugar and butter and cream
Just take one bite it will taste like a dream

There’s a catch though I need a photo
For this strange event

This ain’t no illusion forgive my intrusion your
Happiness is my intent.”

I can't say that's exactly what I said, but for now I'm more than happy to go with Nick's poetic license!

Despite what people say, Alice really is a good place, especially if two strangers can have a nice chat over a random act of cupcake event like Nick and I did. I doubt that would happen in the big smoke. Thank you, Nick, for taking the time to chat with me. And a big thank you for your most excellent poem. It really has made my day!

And now, here's this week's random cupcake: Orange and Poppy Seed:  
And here's the recipe (adapted from Cupcakes: a fine selection of sweet treats).

For the cupcake base you will need:
40g poppy seeds
125ml warm milk
150g softened butter
3 tsp orange zest
2 eggs
185g sifted SR flour

For the icing you will need:
250g cream cheese
150g sifted icing sugar
1 tsp orange zest
3 tsp orange juice
poppy seeds for sprinkling

1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Put cupcake liners in cupcake tin.

2. Soak the poppy seeds in the warm milk. Set aside for 15 minutes.

3. Put the butter, sugar, eggs, flour, orange zest and poppy seed milk mixture in a large bowl. Beat with electric beaters until the batter is cream and light coloured.

4. Spoon the mixture into the cupcake liners. Bake for 15 minutes.

5. Put on a rack to cool.

6. To make the icing, combine the cream cheese, icing sugar, orange juice and zest using electric beaters. Beat until smooth.

7. Spread some icing over each cupcake. Sprinkle poppy seeds on top for decoration.

Makes about 18.

Well, that's all from me for now. It's nice to be back and I truly hope you enjoy whatever randomness comes your way this week!